Googles privacy changes benefit users and businesses

By Amanda Butler COLUMNIST
On February 2, 2012

Last week, Google Inc. announced its new privacy policy, which will take effect March 1.

The policy strives for simplicityin both length and language,and it unifies nearly all ofGoogle's services, products andwebsites. The notable changes inthe policy focus on the mergesand the ways this will affect advertising and the overallprivacy of Google's users.

While Google reasons thathaving one privacy policymutually benefits both users and advertisers, there are privacyadvocates who are alarmed by the changes. Jeffery Chester, executive director at The Center for Digital Democracy, told NPR that "onlineadvertisers want to be assured that they can access users online, knowing everything possible about them," which Google'sprivacy changes would provide.

Despite these baselessconcerns, Google's vice president,Alan Eustace, told NPR thatcollecting data from multipleGoogle services will give users innovative experiences. For example, by combining information gathered from the calendarfeature and data from map and traffic applications, Google can determine what time a user can leave their house so they can arrive at a scheduled meeting in San Francisco without worrying about road congestion.

The changes made to Google's privacy policy wouldlikely not affect the lives ofeveryday citizens and the

new policy pledges to request consent for further changes. If users are still not convinced that the changes are harmless, there are options.

One option is to disable cookieson your Internet browser,because cookies play a significantrole in how Google is ableto track you across its services.In addition, one can choosenot to use Google. Because of theinnovative and competitive Internet environment, there are other search engines, email accounts, social networking sites and services options besides Google, from Hotmail to Bing.

At the very least, Google isgiving users enough time to adjust should they decide to close Gmail or YouTube accounts. Ultimately, privacy groups can reprimand these policy changes, but fewpeople seem to care about how their data is used, as shown by thepopularity of Facebook.

There is no doubt that Google is prevalent and this privacypolicy change reflects a changing Internet culture. The Internet and all the technological devices that access it can be easily valued as a human right. In fact, last June the United Nations published a reportdeclaring Internet access afundamental human right.

Viewing the Internet in this sense allows us to easily forget that there are real companies seeking revenue that can justifygiving advertisers user data because this business model has gone relatively unchallenged.

Amanda Butler is a juniormajoring in sociology and women's studies.

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