Google’s decision to consolidate its privacy policies and drastically reduce the number of policies it uses across its products is a good step toward greater transparency. The new policy is explicit: many Google products have been functionally merged. It is our understanding, however, that Google is maintaining the Chinese wall between data it collects from logged-in users and data collected by DoubleClick — a wall that deserves to be maintained. It is also worth noting that the new policy does not change users’ current privacy settings – whether on YouTube, Google+, or Picasa.
We are concerned that the integration of Google services includes the Chrome browser. Moreover, Google has not promised to cabin off the Android web browser and Android OS. Special caution should be exercised with data from Chrome and Android because these two products see a lot and users are using them as platforms to connect with other services outside Google. We have similar questions about how sensitive data collected from Gmail could be correlated in the future.
In terms of future use, the drive toward simplicity may have made the new policy too broad. It talks about what Google may do with its integrated user data, meaning it does not foreclose future uses.
Google’s announcement serves as a reminder that privacy is not just about privacy policies – it is about data collection and use. All companies should be minimizing collection and correlation of data that doesn’t truly need to be collected or correlated.
Finally, Google and other companies should ensure it remains easy for individuals to continue to take advantage of services as unidentified, logged-out, users. In addition to protecting the logged-out experience, Google has also said that it is committed to maintaining the pseudonymous Internet experience.