The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that as of March 1, Google plans to follow the activities of users across nearly all of its sites, including YouTube, Gmail and its search engine. What is worse, consumers won’t be able to opt out of the changes! Searches on Google and YouTube, e-mail content on Gmail, posts on Google+, etc. will be scanned and analyzed.Why is Google doing it? For money, of course, in the form of ad revenue. As the Post observed,
“The move will help Google better tailor its ads to people’s tastes. If someone watches an NBA clip online and lives inWashington, the firm could advertise Washington Wizards tickets in that person’s Gmail account.”Google justified its actions as a benefit to users, however.
“When someone is searching for the word ‘jaguar,’ Google would have a better idea of whether the person was interested in the animal or the car. Or the firm might suggest e-mailing contacts in New York when it learns you are planning a trip there.”
This capability kicks in when someone activates an Android mobile phone, signs into their accounts online, or enter search terms. However, users who have not logged on to Google or one of its other sites, such as YouTube, are not affected by the new policy.
So, Google has provided its users with a bit of a Hobson’s Choice: Either don’t use Gmail for communication and any Google service that requires an account, or lose some of your privacy rights. It looks like you can still use Google for search if you are not logged in, but it might be better if you looked into other options, such as those offered by Yahoo and Microsoft.
According to the Post, experts are saying that the policy shift will invite greater scrutiny from federal regulators of the company’s privacy and competitive practices. On the other hand, this might just drive users to the competition, thus causing this strategy to backfire. Only time will tell.