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Google runs into privacy flak as new 'main policy' mops up all your info

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By Noel Young, Correspondent

January 25, 2012 | 3 min read

Google is running into trouble following a blog post on Tuesday that it was consolidating all of its privacy policies for some 70 consumer platforms into one "main policy."

Google: new privacy concerns

From March 1, this main policy will allow Google to track users of its services across anything Google-related. Google can then integrate the delivery of aggregated, anonymous data to advertisers, where Google makes its money.

The Wall Street Journal said the move could make it harder for Google users to remain anonymous.

Adweek magazine says, "That may make things handy for advertisers, but privacy advocates fear it may represent nothing more than a Trojan horse for consumers who will be unable to escape being tracked anytime they come in contact with anything Google." This can be on its Android phones, desktop apps, including Gmail, search and its social app, Google+.

"Companies are struggling with how to make privacy data security more tangible to consumers," Amy Mushahwar, a data and privacy attorney told Adweek.

" Google understands that industry and consumer advocates are watching their every move."

In its blog post, Google's director of privacy, Alma Whitten, claims the change will result in a "simpler, more intuitive Google experience."

But James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, a public interest group, described Google's new privacy announcement as" frustrating and a little frightening."

In a press statement he said, "Even if the company believes that tracking users across all platforms improves their services, consumers should still have the option to opt out, especially the kids and teens who are avid users of YouTube, Gmail and Google search."

The Federal Trade Commission has already arranged to audit and monitoring Google's privacy policies for the next 20 years. Google is also under investigation into whether or not its search services favour its products over competitors.

US Congressman Ed Markey said, “Google’s plan to change its privacy policy raises important questions about how much control Google users will have over their personal information.

"As the company continues to flesh out its plans, I look forward to evaluating the changes to ensure consumers' privacy is protected.”

Google's Whitten stressed that Google is committed to "data liberation."

"If you want to take your information elsewhere, you can. 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."

Google insists it isn't collecting any new information, just combining it to provide better service to customers. For example, the company said that it could alert a user that he was going to be late for a meeting based on Google's analysis of the user's location, calendar and analysis of traffic on the way there.

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