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Google privacy policy change leads to debate


On January 24, Google announced changes to its privacy policy and terms of service, earning praise from some quarters and eliciting criticism from others.

Under the new privacy agreement, which will take effect March 1, Google combined more than 60 separate policies to create an umbrella policy that will apply across many of the company's services. This will allow information sharing across platforms such as YouTube and Gmail.

Alma Whitten, the company's director of privacy, product and engineering, described the rationale behind the changes on the Google blog. She said the new privacy policy is more readable and comprehensible than the multiple old ones, improving transparency. She also said it will facilitate a more personalized computing experience.

"We can provide reminders that you're going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day," Whitten explained.

As the Washington Post reported, some privacy advocates have voiced support for the change, pointing to the simpler language and increased transparency. However, others have balked because users have no opt-out options, and have to agree to the change or cancel their Google accounts.

IT pros and tech business owners might consider what San Francisco Chronicle tech columnist James Temple wrote about the controversy. Temple said users are unlikely to read even simple privacy policy and terms of use agreements, but he said these documents are still important for businesses to carefully consider. He said that crafting a privacy policy gets a business thinking about how it will actually use data.