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Google: A Looming Evil?

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Google may have originated as a search engine, but with the release of GMail, Reader, Youtube, Wallet, Google+, Android, Chrome, and other prolific software and services have made it into the internet giant that it is today. Even in my day to day life I use Google services more than anything else.  My news is constantly updated through Google Reader, I use GMail as my email provider, my laptop’s default browser is Chrome, and my searches are entered into Google’s innocuous white box. There is no other company that offers such streamlined and centralized services; online or off.

Today, January 25th, Google has announced plans to merge almost all of their individual privacy policies and terms of service (TOS) agreements into two respective documents that bind users across all of their services, starting March 1st 2012. This excludes a few, Google Wallet and also Google’s Chrome internet browser, but will otherwise tie in all your information and create a pool of data from which all of Google’s services can tap into.

This has obviously raised the ire of privacy groups, as well as users who feel that this idea of sharing personal data between multiple Google-run websites is simply too invasive. Already I’ve seen some Twitter posts about it from DS106 participants.

In my opinion, I don’t think Google is overreaching by requiring users to submit to this new privacy policy and TOS. By offering us more relevant data, most likely in the form of advertising, it will make the web seem more like a customized home instead of an impersonal tool. Our data will not be going to 3rd parties, so everything we’ve already given to Google will now be shared amongst the connected sites, which I have no problems with personally.

For people who are truly privacy minded it may be a good idea to jump off the Google boat, but personally I feel safer with Google than Hotmail, Yahoo, or AOL. And with small email service providers there are other risks, such as low security or less documented privacy policies. Compared to some of the recent mishaps Facebook has had during its struggle to find the right balance (what online savvy person could forget the ‘Beacon’ ads?), Google has shown far more care with how it treats user data (though Buzz was a stumble).

Here are some interesting links for more information:

I know I’ll be sticking with Google, curious about other opinions :)

– Paul

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