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From the author of New Privacy Policy

New Privacy Policy

As part of Search plus Your World, Google also released a new privacy policy that enables it to serve more relevant personal information about us. The very reason most people I talked to jumped on Google+ in 2011 was its commitment to privacy, which differed from Facebook’s checkered privacy past. With its new privacy policy, released on March 1, 2012, Google seems to be committing some of the same mistakes Facebook did—namely, gathering and storing personal information on its users without their knowledge or consent, then deciding after the fact to use that data contrary to a stated policy. The more public data you create, in Google+ and elsewhere, the more Google collects and stores in its system. It claims it is using this data only to help serve you more relevant content in its search results. Your confidence in that statement is a function of whether you believe Google isn’t evil.

Why is this a big deal? Well, our surfing habits, medical and other personal histories are fundamental features of our identities. When these are gathered and used by one company without our consent or control, it opens us up to rather large risks, including identity theft.

One of the main reasons I post to Facebook is I need a place where I can share information to only those I trust, such as my friends and family. Last year, I wrote at length about the need for a space where users can do this. I can set my privacy as strictly as I can in Facebook for this very reason. If I opened it up to the world, Google could take that information and expose it to search results. That’s precisely what I don’t want. I don’t want some criminal learning so much about me that he can steal my identity, or use the information to in some other way to commit crimes against me or my family.

Conspicuously absent from the above search engine results page (or SERP) for my name is my personal Facebook profile page. The main reason for this is my privacy settings. It’s one of the main reasons I don’t post personal information to Google+. I’m really glad I did not post more personal information there before the company announced it would release a new privacy policy. Many of my friends and followers have been busy gutting their Google+ pages in anticipation of the new policy—just another reason to question the long-term viability of Google+.

In the WSJ article cited earlier, Google’s executives claim Google+ is not really competing with Facebook for the practice of sharing with friends and family. They claim the long-term strategy is to provide a way for those using Google Enterprise Services—such as Google Docs and Gmail—to form hangouts and otherwise collaborate on the projects they manage in Enterprise applications.

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