What has the blogosphere and some users in an uproar is that Google isn’t offering users an opt-out option. If you don’t want your information from Gmail, YouTube and Google searches combined into one personal data store that can paint a detailed picture of you, the only option is to stop using Google’s services.
There doesn’t seem to be a way to keep using Google’s highly popular products and services and not have the company combine all your personal data. And that bothers some users.
However, Eitan Bencuya, a Google spokesman, noted that the company has been combining users’ information from different services for a while. For instance, if a user begins to type a name into the Calendar app, the name will auto-complete with contacts from the user’s Gmail account.
With the upcoming changes, the company is expanding that effort and combining users’ information across all products and services, he said.
Some users are leery of the changes. And in a nonscientific Washington Post survey of 13,541 Post readers, 66% said they would cancel their Google accounts because of the changes, 15% said they wouldn’t quit Google and 19% said they haven’t decided how to respond.
“People are upset for two reasons, the first is that Google is just now making this new use of data explicit, and the second is that there is no way to opt out and still use any Google service,” said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. “It’s not that Google is collecting more information. It’s that they’re combining information from all of their various products and services and using it to laser target ads at users. I think that some users and privacy advocates are looking at this as a slippery slope.”
This latest uproar comes on the heels of another public relations pitfall. Google this month integrated information from Google+, its new social network, into its search results, prompting competitors, like Twitter and Facebook, to fire back that the company is acting out of bounds.
Alma Whitten, Google’s director of Privacy for Product and Engineering, said in a blog post that the changes are expected to go into effect March 1.