Thursday, February 9, 2012

Google's privacy policy strikes a freedom chord among Netizens

There is much cry over the new Privacy Policy that Google has announced in the United States. Two issues at the center of the privacy storm, are the ability to “opt out” which essentially involves deleting all traces of individual data collected on you or on your net use by Google and the use of linked data (your account/device to your net use) across Google’s product estate such as combining search data for targeted advertising.

In the physical world when you purchase a book, the book seller cannot correlate the books you purchased to determine your interests, of course this changes when you use a loyalty card. In the virtual world, this correlation is almost certain to happen as everything you do is mapped onto a database of sorts. When information across multiple products and their use is combined, Google’s ability to build a more informative personal profile raises manifold. It is the use of this ability which has most netizens up in arms. Collection of information may help user experience, such as quicker and more appropriate search results, but the use of this information for targeted advertising has raised hackles as it reduces the anonymity of an individual.

As business and government interest in the net grows we now witness initiatives and regulations that seek to maximize their interests in virtual markets. SOPA, Google’s Privacy Policy, Court rulings, cyber laws and cyber wars are indications of coming change. Cybercriminal also find the Internet to be a low risk turf with abundant opportunities for scamming and fraud.  The recent World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2012 posed a thought provoking question “Is online anonymity and integral aspect of freedom in a hyperconnected world “

In the ongoing battle against privacy, netizens are trying to emphasize that the fundamentals of the physical world such as privacy in social transactions and the ability to opt out should be followed as guiding rules of the Internet. They also believe that the underlying reason for the rapid growth of the net was its freedom, and that dominant forces that used this very freedom to grow should not impose a check on new entrants.
if you would like to know what data on you is collected online, then please read my previous post "Personal Data Websites Collects Online".
It is my opinion,  that making the privacy policy simple to read and understand by Google was a good example for other online properties to follow.

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