Google privacy policy updated ahead of new EU rules

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Google are streamlining their privacy policy, preparing to establish one privacy policy to rule all their 70+ products, give or take a few for unique legal reasons.

Google announcement comes ahead of the EU’s planned overhaul of their 17-year old data protection rules. European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding announced that the new guidelines will address the way companies like Google use information on the web, putting their data processing mehtods under greater scrutiny.

Google+, Search, YouTube, Gmail, Reader and more will all be served by the same privacy policy, designed to make a “beautifully simple, intuitive user experience across Google”. Users signed in to Google (no matter what the app) will come under the new privacy policy, meaning that you’ll have to keep a track of each individual Google product you’re signed in to, should you want your data to remain truly private.

“There’s so much more that Google can do to help you by sharing more of your information with … well, you,” said Alma Whitten, director of privacy, product and engineering at Google.

“We can make search better – figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink. We can provide more relevant ads too. For example, it’s January, but maybe you’re not a gym person, so fitness ads aren’t that useful to you. We can provide reminders that you’re going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day. Or ensure that our spelling suggestions, even for your friends’ names, are accurate because you’ve typed them before.”

Google are keen to point out that data handling remains unchanged, stating: “We don’t sell your personal information, nor do we share it externally without your permission except in very limited circumstances like a valid court order […] We try hard to be transparent about the information we collect, and to give you meaningful choices about how it is used.”

The EU changes could potentially cause quite a shake-up for Google. Mark Owen, partner at media and entertainment law firm Harbottle & Lewis, got in touch with Tech Digest to explain:

“The EU is putting a lot more pressure on companies to collect only the minimum data they need to conduct business, and to report breaches of the rules within 24 hours or face very punitive fines. These were capped before at £500,000, but are now a percentage of global turnover.

“There is also now a ‘right to be forgotten’ when individuals choose to leave a social network or withdraw from a business which has their data. Firms will have to make sure they can permanently delete any information they hold on an individual.

“All this may well make it much more difficult for companies to use behavioural advertising techniques and will also place an administrative burden on insurance companies and suppliers of credit who routinely rely on statistical profiling. Organisations must get consent before building a profile of an individual based on their individual characteristics and behaviour and before making any decisions about them based purely on automated processes.”

“Behavioural advertising” is a massive part of Google’s business. Larry Page, Eric E. Schmidt and Sergey Brin better make sure this new privacy policy is airtight.

Gerald Lynch