Google imposes controversial privacy policy

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Despite fierce opposition - and a request for delay from the EU - Google has gone ahead with its planned changes to the company privacy policy.

From today, the company is centralizing all the data it holds on particular individuals, whether from search, Gmail or Google+. The company claims the change will allow it to deliver better search results.

The move comes despite a strongly-worded request from the EU that the company should put the changes on hold while an investigation is carried out, with the EU suggesting that the changes may be contrary to European law.

Privacy groups, too, are up in arms, with the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) writing yesterday to Larry Page to ask for the suspension of the plan.

"It is both unfair and unwise for you to 'change the terms of the bargain' as you propose to do," write TACD co-chairs Susan Grant and Thomas Nortvedt.

"You record virtually every event of a Google user, in far more detail than consumers understand... On March 1, you propose to combine data from all of your services, provided by your users in very different contexts and for very different reasons, into a single profile without user consent and without any meaningful opportunity for users to opt-out."

It is possible to minimise - though not eliminate - the amount of identifiable data Google holds. Visiting https://www.google.com/history  and clicking 'remove web history' will mean that Google doesn't associate a user's personal data with his or her account, and will see the data anonymized after 18 months.

It's also possible to opt out of personalized advertising through the Ads Preferences page.

Meanwhile, British privacy campaigner Alex Hanff has launched a lawsuit against Google, aiming to recover costs associated with his Android phone.

"It is my belief that the changes will be both prejudicial and material changes as defined in Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999.  The changes, which will see Google merging data from multiple platforms and services (including Android Devices) in order to further monetise that data on their advertising platforms, are a significant infringement of my right to privacy and I do not consent to Google being able to use my data in such a way," he says.
 
"In order for me to purchase a new phone to replace the Google Android device I currently use with a non-Android device, the costs would be significant (around £400), as this cost is caused by Google's Privacy Policy changes I have sought remedy through the courts for Google to meet these costs."