Google raises privacy concerns with its new policy

Google raises privacy concerns with its new policy (credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor) Google raises privacy concerns with its new policy (credit: Adelaide Cole/Art Editor)

“Don’t be evil.”

It was an optimistic creed, while it lasted. Google: the young, upstart, idealistic challenger to the monopolistic behemoth that was Microsoft. With its simple interface and honest business practices, Google could do no wrong. Its offices were the envy of the tech world, its young founders symbols that success was possible after the dot-com bubble collapsed.

Those happy days are now over.

On March 1, Google will aggregate all the information it has on each user into a single user profiles. Until now, this information was often split up among many different services. Google Latitude location data was separate from YouTube favorite videos data, which in turn was separate from Gmail messages and contacts. Beginning in March, all this data will be linked much more intricately than it is now.

Google claims that these changes to its privacy policy and terms of service are made with only users’ interests at heart. Search results will be more accurate and advertisements more relevant. For most users, what Google says will be true. Their experiences will be better, and they will see no ill effects.

Yet concentrating the enormous amount of data that Google has on people presents a profound privacy problem. We do not claim that the company will suddenly violate its policy and sell this data to the highest bidder. Google’s past privacy debacles have been due to shortsightedness, not malice. Google Buzz publicized Gmail users’ contact lists without warning — with the new policy changes, that mistake would likely have revealed users’ location histories, photos, and videos.

Over the last few years, Google has demonstrated that it cannot be depended on to protect users’ privacy. Regardless of the good intentions of Google's engineers, history shows that their efforts often leave user information susceptible to security breaches. Upcoming privacy changes are a dangerous to information integrity and should leave users wary of how secure their information is with Google.