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Google Plans To Merge More User Data Across Its Products

Publication Date: 
January 24, 2012
Los Angeles Times
Jessica Guynn

Director of Privacy and Robotics at the Center for Internet and Society Ryan Calo spoke with Jessica Guynn of the Los Angeles Times about the minor changes that will be introduced in Google's new privacy policy.

p>Google is alerting hundreds of millions of users of its products that it's changing the way it treats users' data, combining even more information it knows about them from all of its products, from Gmail to YouTube.

The Internet search giant is putting a notice on its home page and sending emails to users starting Tuesday. Google says the changes will give users a better, more consistent experience on Google products and will help advertisers better reach users who are interested in their products and services.


Privacy advocate Ryan Calo, who was given a sneak peek at Google's new privacy policy, says it's unlikely users will read it. Privacy policies are required by law, but few people pay attention to them, even when they are like Google's latest one: short, concise and written in plain English, he said.

"Sounds like Google's overall practices won't be that different; it's more that Google is owning up to how it thinks and what it does," said Calo, who’s with Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society, which gets some funding from Google.

But he’s less sure if Google isn’t risking turning off some users with what he calls the "creepiness" factor.

For example, Google says someday it may be able to alert you based on your location, your calendar and local traffic conditions when you are going to be late for a meeting. According to Google: "Google users still have to do too much heavy lifting, and we want to do a better job of helping them."

Do users want Google to do that? It depends, Calo said.

"It's different if I am going to a business meeting or to a strip club,” he said.