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Google privacy – a change for the better?

By Paul Goonoo | Head of Search & Social

March 1, 2012 | 4 min read

Paul Goonoo, head of SEM at Rippleffect, discusses what the changes to the Google privacy policy will mean.

Paul Goonoo

Google is due to launch its new privacy policy to much debate. This move was looking on shaky ground earlier this week following a last minute request from CNIL, a French regulator, to “pause” the launch to allow them to address “deep concerns". But after brushing this aside, Google marches on!

The new privacy policy is set to pull over 60 Google products into one all-encompassing policy that would include data sharing across each of these services. The purpose for Google is a simple one: to improve its services across each of its products.

This seems a simple proposition, but privacy advocates do not look favourably on it. Google doesn't have the greatest reputation following its long list of privacy faux pas. In January, Google was outed as a part of a list of guilty parties bypassing Safari browser privacy settings. Then, last year, the Google Map car was identified as stealing wifi network data and, perhaps the most influential in these recent developments, Google buzz defaulting in to Gmail.

These past indiscretions have heavily tarnished Google’s reputation and set the organisation up as a big target when privacy is such a hot topic. Even its own motto 'don’t be evil' is repeatedly referenced in angry blog posts, articles and even a browser add-on.

There is no doubting that Google has set itself in a very favourable position in terms of being a media publisher and it understands that its products have two distinct users – the consumers and the advertisers.

Consumers are becoming increasingly influenced by the visibility of privacy issues, but are they concerned enough to stop using the services of these demonized service providers? Facebook, another global entity that suffers at the hand of privacy advocates, is continually barraged by ill feelings to its privacy policies, yet users continue to flock to the site. I find it very hard to believe that any noticeable proportion of users will stop using any of Google’s services (not counting Google+; they’ll stop using that for completely different reasons!).

The other side of the equation is the advertisers. As marketers, shouldn’t we be fighting for this privacy policy? We may not want to admit it, but we love this stuff. Digital will always beat any other media hands down on targeting, and this is down to how much data is available and the means to use it. A unified data set across all Google products with profiling of interests and demographics would be very appealing. It will not be a popular view point around the dinner party discussions, but this has the potential to be golden.

We can’t overlook the Orwellian nature of Google. This change is not entirely for its user bases and advertisers. This new policy will protect Google from the issues surrounding Google Buzz integration and allow it to launch and integrate products at free will. As a self-confessed cynic, this has the potential to get out of hand but, realistically, we need to look at the other options.

Without the data sets for marketing, publishers such as Google and Facebook will have to address their revenue channels, and if users don’t want to be sold to what would be their value? Perhaps it's as subscribers but I can’t see anyone willing to pay for Google+, that’s for sure.

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