Sunday, 5 February, 2012

YOU and Google's new privacy policy

I am sure you have seen the new privacy policy agreement from Google that was flashed on the home screen of Google, on your Gmail and any Google service that you might be using. If you still haven't read(who reads those any way),

I am not gonna talk about western world that lives in its own dreamland and also has much better cyber laws. This article is about people who live on countries that have close to zero cyber laws and where you can buy anything with money. Full disclaimer: I am a Google Fanboy. So read this with a pinch of salt. :-)

There are two major implications of this for common people like us in developing countries.

Google data integration across domains:

Google is integrating the data collection about YOU across its all the Google services that you use. Their argument is they will be able to provide more personalized service for you. A "like" in a youtube movie may be used to show you an advertisement, as you read your emails.

This is essentially not bad. Few reasons:

1. None of us till today has complained about Google advertisements and we in countries like India want "free service". Paying for emails is just going to shut the usage of Internet. So we will have to take this pill. 

2. Google always says they never sell the data to others. In the sense, advertisement regarding a "discount on soap" that you use may come as you search for something, but your retailer or the manufacturer will never about YOU as a person and what you like.

3. I (as a fan boy) believe on Google's "Don't be evil" until today. There are few concerns (that you will see below), but overall Google is better than other companies. If I ever was "forced" to surrender my data to someone, It will be Google. So you can be assured that any deviation from these policies will be known to people before they get implemented. Transparency is the key.

Where do I think this data integration is not good?

1. Giving bits and pieces of information to someone is lot different from having them integrated in one place. You can't wear a mask to google now. Common man doesn't think a lot about privacy and uses same email address  (usually gmail) across internet. What music you like to when is the last time you searched about malaria, where you like to Dine, everything is known to Google. Think twice. It is like a magic box that if questioned about one's tastes, it correctly lists out. There are lot of privacy concerns here. What if Google is hacked?

2.Bending for the governments is something all the corporate companies do. They need to answer to their shareholders. Google can't run away from a market like India. (China is a different story). This is exactly where volume is, tomorrow's growth is. Google is already redirecting to, so that it can ban something in a specific country. Now with all this in mind, think about Indian Government asking for a specific person's data. Google will oblige and we all may not know about it. Can it be used in court of law? May not be today. But what if Government changes laws to do that, what do we do? Ok, that might sound like a far fetched story. Now think this way. You are a popular person in a small town, someone wants to spoil your name. They bribe the Indian government folks and indirectly google hands the data to these criminals. (This "could" even contain the information about your health.).

3. Google turning into a regular corporate company and "dont be evil" stays only on paper. Though I dont believe this, as Google becomes a bigger company, there might be people who might take short cuts. (There is already a story in Africa where google did a nasty wok). There might be things that are done in not so transparent way and we might never know about it. Google might be selling data to P&G and you might be getting direct emails from them. This relates back to point 2 as well. Google Indian team might take different stand from corporate to show growth in India.

G+ Over others:

Apart from the data integration, second impact is that, google came up with how it shows the search results. Now G+ takes more precedence over Facebook, Twitter and other results. This is most probably not harmful to you as end user. But this is a trap. This forces you to use G+ to be more social. Basically Google is using it's search capability to force you to use it's other products. You should use a product, because you like it. Not because Google forces it. Gmail was good example. People switched from yahoo and hotmail as the product was better, not because Google forced it. So making G+ better should be the way to go and not this. Many tech journalists feel Google overstepped on this one killing it's "Don't be evil" policy.  I think I agree to an extent here.

One suggestion to you is, make sure you log out of people, if you are going to do some search, some net surfing that you don't want Google to track. Remember this because many of us don't logout of Google at all. Incognito window would be better.  

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