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Google Privacy Policy Update

Last week’s Google privacy update, reveals that the company will anonymize IP addresses after 9 months, down from 18 months. Check out this NPR: On the Media piece about privacy concerns arising from Chrome and other Google services.

Google VP of Search Products and User Experience and Ninjitsu, Marissa Mayer, asserts that Google is better qualified to choose privacy settings than end users, that data storage involves balancing privacy concerns and the utility of usage data for product development, that Google is very open about what user information they collect and retain, that ISPs really have a whole lot more data than Google does.

My favorite line is Bob Garfield’s stinger, “Does Google believe, institutionally, that all the discussion of privacy concerns is actually stifling innovation of your algorithm and other technological development…or do you kind of get why it’s important to all of us?”

Right on. I work for an Internet marketing company that exists mostly because of Google and the ads and search results it serves. Because Pure Visibility is an AdWords and Analytics partner, we get to communicate our successes and concerns with reps at Google. I know a number of Googlers personally. I’ve had a really nice time at lectures at the Google Office in Ann Arbor. None of this precludes my wariness about Google’s effect on my privacy online.

By Christmas this year, I’ll have been a Gmail user for four years. During that time, I’ve sent and received several thousand emails. Google has used the “concepts” in emails I’ve written and received to show me thousands of ads for products and services that might interest me. I’m pleased that I don’t get too much spam, I love how searchable my mail is, and I feel confident that my data won’t be lost. But even after four years, I remain concerned about the decision I made to exchange access to information about me for the privilege of using Gmail. I look forward to looking deeper into Google’s privacy policy and writing about privacy and advertising on the web in future posts.

Check out Bob Garfield’s blog for Advertising Age

Visit the Google Privacy Center for detailed information about the use of your personal data by various products. The videos are pretty good, explaining what data the company collects and why; not too much technical detail.


March 2007 Google Privacy Policy Announcement

September 2008 Google Privacy Policy Announcement


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2 Responses to "Google Privacy Policy Update"

  • Brian Kelly
    October 15, 2008 - 5:37 pm Reply

    Good interview. I found Marissa to be a bit dodgy. Understandable.. eh, I guess. The question of “where’s the opt-in?” was pretty direct, and somehow they ended up talking about slider bars?

    As you noted, more privacy == more work for google to make searching good. It’s hard to indefinitely trust a public company, but I’m trying.

  • Jason Young
    October 17, 2008 - 9:20 am Reply

    yes indeed. it is my sincere hope that the spirit of ‘don’t be evil’ continues to live on as the company grows and adds people and products.

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