The changes have drawn the attention of state attorneys general, French privacy regulators — who submitted a detailed questionnaire for Google to fill out — and, just yesterday, a private class action suit.
All because Google basically decided to stop collecting information from its sites (search, Gmail, YouTube, and so on) separately and start consolidating it. Like every other Web portal already does. Google says it didn’t change the type of information it collects, or what it does with it.
So here’s a little test for the privacy watchdogs.
Most of them are very minor, but a couple stood out. For instance, Facebook added the words in bold-face to this part:
- When you or others who can see your content and information use an application, your content and information is shared with the application.
Catch that? It used to be when you use an app, that app could get your content. Now, when OTHER people use an app, and you’ve shared your info with those other people, the app can see your info.
There’s also this totally new section about apps updating themselves automatically:
- If you download our software, such as a stand alone software product or a browser plugin, you agree that from time to time, the software may download upgrades, updates and additional features from us in order to improve, enhance and further develop the software.
And this bit of boilerplate legal language:
- We reserve all rights not expressly granted to you.
Is any of this a big deal? No. Not for normal people. It’s exactly what tons of other Internet sites do.
But the Google changes were similarly mundane.
So cue the outrage!
(Then, if you really want to see a true example of privacy violations, take 15 minutes to read this Wired cover article about the National Security Agency. Hint: it’s not about tracking cookies.)