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Google’s privacy changes benefit users and businesses

Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012

Updated: Thursday, February 2, 2012 03:02

 

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

The policy strives for simplicity in both length and language, and it unifies nearly all of Google's services, products and websites. The notable changes in the policy focus on the merges and the ways this will affect advertising and the overall privacy of Google's users.

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

Despite these baseless concerns, Google's vice president, Alan Eustace, told NPR that collecting data from multiple Google services will give users innovative experiences. For example, by combining information gathered from the calendar feature 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 would likely not affect the lives of everyday 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 cookies on your Internet browser, because cookies play a significant role in how Google is able to track you across its services. In addition, one can choose not to use Google. Because of the innovative 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 is giving users enough time to adjust should they decide to close Gmail or YouTube accounts. Ultimately, privacy groups can reprimand these policy changes, but few people seem to care about how their data is used, as shown by the popularity of Facebook.

There is no doubt that Google is prevalent and this privacy policy 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 report declaring Internet access a fundamental human right.

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

 

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

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