Google begins collecting users’ data across its services

March 1, 2012

Google launched its new privacy policy on Thursday, adding Web search and YouTube history to the pool of data that the company collects about its account-holders.

The changes bring 60 of the company’s services under the same umbrella, and clarifies that Google has permission to share the information of people who have signed into their accounts. That means that what you watch on YouTube will inform ads you see in Gmail or could change the results you get in Web searches. Users are not able to opt out of the information-sharing.

Google has put the new policy in place despite requests from privacy regulators that the company hold off. Regulators from the French data protection agency, CNIL, sent a letter this week to Google chief executive Larry Page asking him to “pause” the launch while the agency reviewed its possible effects on the average consumer. Google said that while it would continue discussions about the policy, changing the date of implementation would “cause a great deal of confusion for users.”

In a similar letter to the search engine giant, the government of Japan said that it had concerns about the policy and whether it runs afoul of Japanese data protection laws, the Tokyo Times reported. Several members of Congress have also asked Google for more information about the policy.

In a blog post published Thursday, Google gave reassurances that the new policy does not affect existing privacy settings or how the company shares information with outside parties.

“We aren’t collecting any new or additional information about users. We won’t be selling your personal data. And we will continue to employ industry-leading security to keep your information safe,” wrote Alma Whitten, Google’s director of privacy, product and engineering.

Still, Google users have expressed reservations, The Washington Post reported, with some choosing to close their Google accounts to avoid data collection.

“This is a really hairy choice for me. I’m just really hoping Google changes its mind,” Patience O’Connor of the District told The Post’s Cecilia Kang last week.

Related stories:

Google privacy policy changes March 1: How to clear your search history, account information

EU tells Google that privacy policy could violate laws, asks for delay

Google history: giving up the inadvertent search diary

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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