Privacy policy to store and share Google users’ personal information ignites chaos, resistance

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Lauren Spencer
lspencer8@radford.edu

Google’s privacy policy has stirred controversy among Internet users, as many people are voicing opposition to the new regulations. The policy will go into effect March. 1, which you can read in its entirety at google.com/intl/en/policies/privacy/preview. However, it’s questionable whether Google will remain a chief powerhouse among competing Internet browsers.

While internet users deem this privacy policy will accumulate our personal information into a vulnerable Internet database, their biggest fear is that their confidentiality will be threatened and the stockpile of invisible data could potentially be targeted by Internet scammers and hackers.

Google will essentially become a storage center where all web activity conducted through the Google Chrome Internet browser and all information submitted into the Google Website’s search engine, regardless of the browser provider, will be collected.  Any website visited by users and the information made known through that site will also be kept by Google. This includes details made available through email, social media networks, and all other accounts accessed through Google, such as bank accounts and accounts to pay bills by Internet.

Although Google offers an explanation of the policy and its new conditions, this change has generated a wave of uproar among businesses, corporations, government authorities, and everyday Internet users, who all feel as if Google is quickly losing their credibility as one of the most widely-used Internet sources.

Google claims that they plan to accrue information as a way to generalize interests and hobbies of their users and that the policy is primarily geared to assist Google with marketing and advertising opportunities. The information will be hoarded into “server logs,” which will allow Google to filter web-based activity and utilize the information as a way of profiling their users. In turn, Google will select appropriate advertisements to be displayed on websites and web pages accessed by that computer, based on past browsing logs.

After being exposed by the Wall Street Journal on Feb. 17, Google was revealed for neglecting the privacy settings established through Apple’s Safari browser. Google overrode these settings by creating a code which follow the web and browsing activity of users.

Thirty-six states have expressed their concern for how this policy may impact personal privacy rights and the confidentiality of Google users. According to Google’s webpage titled “Preview: Privacy Policy,” they have defined “personal information” as the “information which you provide to us which personally identifies you, such as your name, email address or billing information, or other data which can be reasonably linked to such information by Google.”

However, Google will also maintain what is called “sensitive personal information” which they describe as “a particular category of personal information relating to confidential medical facts, racial or ethnic origins, political or religious beliefs or sexuality.”

What is more alarming about Google’s authority over users’ information is the panic that it may become available to others. Google admits that they “collect” certain information, but also plan to “share” this data as well.  Google’s privacy policy lists a number of factors which may affect the accessibility of personal information and the extent in which it is distributed. Google will not only assume guardianship of our web-based information, but businesses may be able to buy information from Google for the right price.

However, Google admits they will share information on four instances: with given consent, with domain administrators, for external processing and for legal reasons.

While many concerns revolve around the protection of information, Google acknowledges that there are options to alter security settings. Google will allow users to make modifications to their profile and decide which information they wish to be made viewable to others, but ultimately Google’s policy emphasizes their responsibility is “to maintain our services in a manner that protects information from accidental or malicious destruction. Because of this, after you delete information from our services, we may not immediately delete residual copies from our active servers and may not remove information from our backup systems.”

Therefore, even after users delete information that they wish to remain private, there is no actual guarantee the information has been removed from Google’s database, files or systems.