Thursday, January 26, 2012

Setting the record straight about our privacy policy changes

A lot has been said about our new privacy policy. Some have praised us for making our privacy policy easier to understand. Others have asked questions, including members of Congress, and that’s understandable too. We look forward to answering those questions, and clearing up some of the misconceptions about our privacy policies that first appeared in the Washington Post.

So, here’s the real story:
  • You still have choice and control. You don’t need to log in to use many of our services, including Search, Maps and YouTube. If you are logged in, you can still edit or turn off your Search history, switch Gmail chat to “off the record,” control the way Google tailors ads to your interests, use Incognito mode on Chrome, or use any of the other privacy tools we offer.
  • We’re not collecting more data about you. Our new policy simply makes it clear that we use data to refine and improve your experience on Google — whichever products or services you use. This is something we have already been doing for a long time.
  • We’re making things simpler and we’re trying to be upfront about it. Period.
  • You can use as much or as little of Google as you want. For example, you can have a Google Account and choose to use Gmail, but not use Google+. Or you could keep your data separate with different accounts -- for example, one for YouTube and another for Gmail.
For more detail, please read the new privacy policy and terms, and visit this site to learn more.


Marcel Bennett said...

I wonder if Gizmodo will update their assassination piece from yesterday and remove all the sensationalistic garbage they tried to pass off as news.

Laz said...

Being the upstart rebel on the side of the people -- an alternative to subjugation to and controls from 'the man' -- is what gained Google EVERYTHING they have and are today. So, it is shocking now how rapidly and unashamedly Google fires off one glaring reminder after another that they have completely abandoned that corporate identity. I can only hope and firmly believe that forgetting where they came from will very soon start to show on Google's bottom line as some new rebel upstarts come along with fresh ideas and an attitude of service, not exploitation. We, the people, shall flock to the NEXT Googles as quickly as they can surface! This blog post is the most transparently veiled line of disingenuous corporate BS I've ever read.

Rick Bucich said...

Laz - sounds similar to the user handle that was spamming the help forum the other day with the same drivel

Dave said...

Nice corporate speak. As to your first bullet point, since it's all about me, why not require me to opt in to your cross-platform program? Would the reason be that few people would and your profits be reduced? Yep. So please don't tell me this change is for me. It is for your bottom line. You are allowed to do it, currently, hopefully, government will begin to distrust you at a level equal to Facebook and force all monopolies to play nice as you don't seem willing to do so on your own.

Vijay Narayanan said...

If all you want is to help "me", why not give "me" the option of opting out?

The Woodlands Oriental Rug Gallery said...

Another giant leap for Google! A few more steps and they will become the forgotten tribe that fell off the face(book) of Earth. Corporate greed is alive and well, with and without bailouts. I have a friend who believes an insurrection by the people of America is actually possible. I'm still in the letter-writing stage and deleting Google programs and apps one-by-one, but hopefully others are plotting in smoke-free rooms. PLA

Hugh Isaacs II said...

lol, at the people requesting for the ability to opt-out.

Opt-out of what? There isn't even anything new to be opted out of.

Saeed said...

The answer for those who want to "opt out" from these policies is to QUIT. But wait a second you guys want to use Gmail and google search and don't say yes to their terms? Did anybody else ever let you do that?
Guys, please stop it and if you want to be unknown simply log out and then search.

Vijay Narayanan said...

I have no intention of being lectured about privacy by a company whose Chairman thinks that they know so much about users that people should consider changing their names.

All I'm asking is this: is the right to privacy too much to ask for? Does a once-beloved company like Google not have the decency to offer its users the ability to opt out of being tracked?

Peter Sitterly said...

Everyone has to remember that people were once up in arms over the number of words on their home page. Remember those days?

Google has always been the company that people love to hate.

mark anson said...

Google is right to do what it is doing. Did people read what Betsy Masiello wrote before they posted negative responses?

Jonathan said...

Funny how everyone is complaining about Google not allowing them to opt-out or opt-in. You opt-in when you use the NO COST services they provide you. I feel sorry for Google, they have to deal with some very idiotic customers.

Vagrant said...

Did you guys even read the post? It listed a bunch of ways that you can opt out of these features that you have a paranoid fear of. The reason it is not opt-in is that the VAST majority of people don't pay attention to any of this, just as the VAST majority of people don't even know what search engine they use.

If you are one of the people who IS aware of such things, then it should not be difficult for you to opt-out. If you are so paranoid that you WANT all of your Google services to act like separate accounts, then go and make separate accounts for them.

This is not rocket science, people. I am amazed at the number of people, like Laz, who try to pump themselves up by casting stones at Google.

Belzecue said...

An official Google blog, and five out of eighteen comments are spam comments. No way to report these comments as spam, no way to report the spam-user's profile page.

Not really trying, are you, Google?

yao said...

To people who are concerned about companies collecting your interests, you should just hit that little power button and forget about the internet because one way or another any company will collect that data.

Kudos to Google for the effort on privacy.

schulzdotme said...

since when can i use seperate accounts for google and youtube? when logging in at google this account is used for youtube and vice versa. logging off and on with the other account is possible but not very comfortable!

axe said...

"For example, you can have a Google Account and choose to use Gmail, but not use Google+"

That's extremely misleading since users now must create a G+ profile to sign up for Gmail.

Peter Sitterly said...

"That's extremely misleading since users now must create a G+ profile to sign up for Gmail."

No, you don't. Read.

HG said...

Not quite. I just sighed up for a new account last week. It asked me after I finished if I wanted to use Google+ as well and I said no (since I had no need). It's never bothered me again. The statement wasn't misleading at all; if you want separate accounts then make separate accounts. It's not rocket science here.

Why is this a big deal? Google has been sharing info between services for years now. Someone point out to me what changed that suddenly made this a big deal because I don't get it.

Jack Doyle said...

Folks.. you certainly can opt out if you choose, but opting out means cancelling your account.

The account/use of services go hand in hand with the Terms of Service. You don't get one without the other.

It's much like telling the phone company that you want the phone, but you want to opt out of the monthly payment.

Vijay Narayanan said...

Jack, your analogy is way off.

If your phone company tells you they will listen in on your calls and provide you with ads from time to time depending on the content of your conversations, that is the equivalent here. I'm not sure how many people will sign up for it, even if such a service were offered for "free".

Tosho Soft said...

I'd follow up on your analogies, but it would get messy so instead:

When you were creating your Google accounts, remember that long, long page that had a long, long document and an "Accept" thingie in the end?

You didn't read that did you? Because if you had, you would've known that it is a binding contract and that it says exactly what Google will be doing with the information you communicate with them.

But you probably didn't read it because it was long, boring, or dare I say complicated.

So they made things shorter and simpler. The operation behind the contracts has not changed. Google have been using your data across their network for a long while now. They just went out of their way to outline things, just for busy people like you.

Read contracts, mate. Read them, carefully. If you don't like them, don't sign them. If you don't like them but still want the perks, deal with the dilemma on your own.

Kevin said...

This is such a ridiculous attempt to get a story right for something that is completely filled with inconsistency.

This thing needs to be opt-in. You change the processing of personal data, you need to get my explicit consent for the new purpose. (you might want to read the safe harbor agreement again) So lucky the new EU-Regulation is not in place yet.

With regard to Safe Harbor (mentioned in your policy) turns out: your 'self' - certification has expired.

I can not understand how your own employees are not opposing this. Where is the integrity? In Shareholder Value?

Peter Sitterly said...

It is opt-in. You've been lied to by the sensationalists.

KenEvoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Google Privacy Policy Changes Suck said...

I am not convienced. When I went to cancel parts of my google account that were not essential until I can move my email and mobile services to another option it claimed I had deleted sub accounts and they are still there. Google has forgotten its "do no evil" and become the evil.

It has been a good many years and I will miss you google but, until you change this myself and my family cannot work with you!

KenEvoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Sitterly said...

You're doing it wrong.

KenEvoy said...

Thanks, Peter. I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong, though.

I can post PART 3 (of 4), but not PARTS 1, 2 and 4. (It's a long post, so had to be split up.)

Each post is under the limit of 4000 characters.

And when I post them, each is "saved" on the comment-submission page. If you are subscribing to this post, you are likely getting e-mail about my posts that confirm successful submission, too.

But they won't show up on THIS page.

Let's see if this post does.

In any event, I'll try Chrome. I've seen a thread that says Chrome may help (although I am not sure the problem is related).

If you have any ideas, I'm all ears. :-)

All the best,
Ken Evoy

KenEvoy said...

Comments On Google's Privacy Policy

(7 parts were needed due to Blogger limitations and the complexity of this issue.)

PART 1 of 7: Introduction

Google, no reasonable person could argue your right to unify your many privacy policies. A simple, "one login fits all" is good for everyone.

The problem is your messaging, which emphasizes "simplicity" and bypasses, as much as possible, the fact that you will now be combining data that was previously held separately in the silo of each service.

If you truly want to set the record straight and make your privacy policy clear, make it obvious for your average "user." To do that, we must understand the level of that person.

I'm sure that you know that level. But the digerati who follow this issue over-estimate their knowledge base because we live in a very different bubble.

We need a brief education about how little YOUR typical user knows about using the Internet. The best place to start is a video by someone from Google itself...

Most people believe that a browser is "a search engine." When asked what the difference is between a search engine and a browser, only 8% of over 50 passerby's in Times Square, NY, knew. The experiment was reproduced in Rotterdam, the Netherlands....

Their results? "After an hour of interviewing, we managed to find 3 people that were able to explain what a web browser was."

Another video from Ljubljana, Slovenia yielded similar results.

So what must we conclude?

If you want to be clear and open, Google, you need to talk to these folks so THEY understand, instead of "setting the record straight" with us. Enable THEM to give an informed consent.

Continued in Part 2...

KenEvoy said...

PART 2 of 7: Speaking to "EveryMan"

With that as our knowledge base, let's review key parts of this "setting the record straight" post, and then do the same for your original post about your new privacy statement.

(NOTE: For added clarity, long quotes from your blog are denoted by """ before and after each quote.)

Let's start with the following two suggestions by you about how users can reduce the loss of privacy...

If you are logged in, you can still edit or turn off your Search history, switch Gmail chat to "off the record," control the way Google tailors ads to your interests, use Incognito mode on Chrome, or use any of the other privacy tools we offer.

Or you could keep your data separate with different accounts -- for example, one for YouTube and another for Gmail.

Google, you know that those folks on the videos are NOT going to do any of that. They do not even know what the above means.

I boldened your phrase about ads because you consistently bury it in your messaging.

However, many web-savvy commentators in the media believe that your extensive data-gathering is actually all about advertisers paying more for better-targeted ads due to improved click-through (by the folks in the video) and better Conversion Rates.

That sounds about right.

No one argues your right to make more money.

But be fair. Be as upfront as you claim to be instead of burying the issue of ads and your financial benefits. It's part of the transaction you enter into with each user.

The average person has no clue that the actual transaction here is the sale of one's privacy in return for using your services, so that you can earn more income.

You, though, hide that as much as possible.

That is not being "upfront."

Continued In Part 3...

KenEvoy said...

Part 3 Of 7: Who Is This Really About?

Google, based on your knowledge of Internet users, demonstrated in the videos shown in Part 1, you know what the vast majority of "browser" users will and won't do...

1) They won't search for or find the link to the "Privacy tools" you mention.

2) Even if they do, they'll never use them. Very few people change default settings.

3) They will click on your adhesion agreement without reading or understanding it.

4) Few will ever read, and fewer will understand and use, the information on this FAQ page.

5) Ditto for the Dashboard. Imagine a video that asks them how to adjust privacy settings!

So, to truly be upfront and honest, they need to know and understand the truth. Instead of obfuscating with jargon and burying your motivation to make more money...

1) speak simply, so that they'll understand

2) give full disclosure

3) put the message where they can't miss it

4) let them opt-in in order to use each of your services.

Remember, they can't even define "browser." They deserve a fair chance to make an informed decision.


The digerati can debate this with sophistication. But it's not about us. It's about THEM, the 99%.

The average "user" has no chance to make an informed decision about the ramifications of your new privacy policy.

In the name of "being upfront," why not present a message that THEY will understand, along with fair options? I will follow with a suggestion at the end of this series of comments.

Continued in Part 4...

KenEvoy said...

Part 5 Of 7: How Google Fools "Everyman"

Google, you know that over 99% of your users will not see, read, or understand the ramifications of your new policy, let alone use the so-called safeguards built into your system. They won't even read any of the controversy you have stirred among the web-savvy because we live in a different world.

When they arrive at your services, they'll click "OK" without reading or understanding your privacy statement. If you doubt that, do another video and ask the same folks what this simple message (excepted from your original announcement) means...

In short, we'll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

They won't understand what that means, let alone that you are assimilating all the private information that they generate while using each of your products.

And you are NOT helping them understand. See this dense paragraph?...

But there's so much more that Google can do to help you by sharing more of your information with ... well, you. We can make search better--figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink. We can provide more relevant ads too. For example, it's January, but maybe you're not a gym person, so fitness ads aren't that useful to you. We can provide reminders that you're going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day. Or ensure that our spelling suggestions, even for your friends' names, are accurate because you've typed them before. People still have to do way too much heavy lifting, and we want to do a better job of helping them out.

Google, why would you bury "We can provide more relevant ads too" deep in the middle of that long paragraph? It's a copywriting technique to lead and close with the good stuff, bury the rest (you had no option but to mention ads, too, after all).

Clearly, this is all about money. That's OK, but why NOT be upfront if you're truly "making things simpler and ... trying to be upfront about it."

Just BE upfront about it. Give them a REAL chance to make informed consent.


On that note, here's my suggested implementation, one that would be consistent with your claims to fairness and openness...

Explain your new privacy policy CLEARLY, in words that they understand, when people log into a service that requires a login. Present them with a clear message that obliges an action BEFORE they can reach the actual product.

Do this for each and every service. Do it the first time they log into each and every service.

Let's use Gmail as an example.

Continued In Part 6...

KenEvoy said...

Part 6 of 7: What Informed Consent Looks Like

Informed consent is a "must" when changing a privacy policy in a substantial manner. Assimilating data gathered across all Google services is significant. People MUST understand the ramifications.

Given the low level of sophistication of most users, here is an example of what informed consent might look like when logging into Gmail, for the first time after Google's new policy is in place...


Good news! We are simplifying your Google account. Here's how it works...

We're going to track and store the content in your e-mail, even your SMS messages. We'll combine that with whatever else you do on the other Google services (ex., Maps and YouTube).

This includes whatever you search at Google AND wherever you go and whatever you do when you use our Chrome browser.

It also includes all the info that we gather when you use Google services and apps on other sites and by third parties.

In short, we'll know more about what you do online than even your closest friend or beloved family member.

As a result, you may or may not see personalized results in some services ("personalized results" are results that reflect your interests and actions).

You will be seeing more personalized ads that you are more likely to click. We see that as a benefit for both you and our advertisers, who pay more for superior targeting.

We'll do our best to prevent people at Google from getting access to your personal information. The same goes for other trusted businesses who process personal information on our behalf.

A caveat... Please be careful not to do, say or search for anything that may get you into trouble legally because we may have to turn over your information to authorities if required. We would also share your information if we believe that you pose a threat to us.

We will only sell your information to a third party if it buys Google. They'd be in control then.

We'll delete your data if you ask us to, but we may refuse to do so if it would take us too much work.

We can change this policy at any time. It's up to you to read this policy to find that out. If the changes are major (we decide what "major" is), we'll post notification in a prominent spot.

To summarize...

You pay for our products by selling all your private information and activities generated across all Google services, which we use to personalize results and to target ads, which earns us more money.

If you agree to our privacy policy, please click "I agree" and we'll let you use Gmail. If you don't, we're sorry, but you'll have to find another e-mail provider."

Hoping to keep you as a happy "user,"
The good folks from Google

P.S. The full text of the privacy agreement is at...

The note above is a simplification of the agreement to be sure you understand what you are surrendering in return for using our services.

Continued in Part 7...

KenEvoy said...

Part 7 of 7: Wrapping Up

That's it.

It all boils down to...

"Don't be evil."

Don't skirt the letter of the law as your lawyers have so carefully engineered. Go the what's right, the spirit of the law. Go back to the days when Google was dedicated to "organizing the world's information," not OWNING it.

Put up a simple, honest message before each person uses each service for the first time under the new policy.

The details of the sample message in Part 6 are not important. It's spirit is...

It's clear.

It's true opt-in.

It's simple.

Include dashboards and special tools if you like, but don't emphasize them because most will never use them.

Google, THAT type of messaging is upfront and fair, something that all "passerby's" EVERYWHERE deserve.

You have every right to "simplify" your privacy practices. You also have the obligation to TRULY set the record straight by making sure EVERYONE understands what "simplification" means.

If you take the high road, you won't have to "set the record straight" ever again.

All the best,
Ken Evoy

Severin said...

what about the android operating system? once we are logged in, there is no way log out. are there similar privacy controls for searching and browsing the web from our phones? as much as google wants to "personalize" everything i certainly do not need nor wish to see who among my friends or contacts is searching for what. and i certainly don't want what i'm searching for to show up in others searches. for example what if i do a search for say, wedding rings, and then for some reason my girlfriend also happens to do a search for wedding rings, and then at the top of her search appears the "others who have done similar searches" section and my face is in it, that totally ruins the surprise. thanks google. way to go. when it comes to privacy, opt in is always going to be better than opt out, becuase people can't complain due to the fact that at least they were given the choice.

KenEvoy said...

Sorry, even though Part 4 was successfully posted (confirmed both on the submission page and via e-mail), it did not "make it" into the sequence.

I'll post Part 4 as soon as I figure out what went wrong with that post.

Blogger is very frustrating if you want to do something of much substance. :-(

All the best,

KenEvoy said...

Part 4 Of 7: What Is "The Real Story"?
(continued from Part 3 above)

Let's shift briefly to your original announcement about your new Privacy Policy...

It received near-universal outrage from...

1) webmasters. For example...


2) the media. For example...

Daily Mail UK

Washington Post

Many Others

3) privacy groups. For example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said "Google's disclosure ... comes across more like a confession than a bold new move."

Instead of rethinking your plans in the face of this firestorm, you chose to "set the record straight" with the "real story."

Your "real story," though, is just spin. Here's the REAL story...

The average person on the street WILL be bamboozled into agreeing without understanding.

Why bother addressing all the concerns of the digerati? Let them complain and debate all they like, right? After all, how important are their objections in the bigger scheme?

The digerati form an infinitesimal part of your market. They reach other digerati and sophisticated readers. They don't reach the people on the streets featured in the above videos.

The mass market is YOUR target market.

Your advertisers want to reach them in the most targeted way possible. And they'll pay you for that privilege if you succeed with this cross-product assimilation of information on all users.

Sophisticated users can take care of themselves, as others have pointed out here. But the typical user cannot.


Let's be frank...

If this was ONLY about simplification as requested by regulators, you could have simplified WITHOUT cross-referencing all data gathered at every service.

So "simplification" is really about increasing revenues by using private information in more invasive ways to improve the targeting of your ads. THAT is your holy grail.

For that, however, you need permission.

That means that you require informed consent.

You have NOT structured consent in a way that will inform your typical user fairly and completely. Why not?..

Continued In Part 5 (above)