Posted in War on Privacy

Google to “revise” its privacy policies so that it can ramp up its spying and tracking

We hate to say, we told you so, but… we told you so!

In a move that could make it harder for Google users to remain anonymous, Google Inc. said it would start combining nearly all the information it has on its users.

This could mean, for instance, that when users search via Google, the company will use their activities on sister sites like Gmail and YouTube to influence those users’ search results. Google hasn’t done that before.

Google’s move—which was disclosed in a privacy policy that will take effect on March 1—is a sign of the fierce competition between Google and Facebook Inc. over personal data. Facebook has amassed an unprecedented amount of data about the lives of its more than 800 million members—information that is coveted by advertisers.

Years ago, Google began morphing from a search and advertising company into a tracking company that controls a vast treasure trove of information about people. This site, Leave Google Behind, was created as a response to the beginning of that metamorphosis. Since LGB’s founding almost three years ago, we have faithfully chronicled Google’s increasingly well-waged war on privacy, which the Monster of Mountain View seems determined to continue, one odious move at a time.

It should be obvious by now that many of Google’s offerings don’t directly generate revenue and have nothing to do with its core business. Consider Chrome, Google’s browser. Google doesn’t make money on Chrome. But it is able to use Chrome to track the web surfing habits of millions of people. Google made Chrome by taking freely available open source software, making some improvements, and adding a proprietary payload of spyware on top. That payload is distributed with each copy of Google Chrome. But of course, it is missing from community builds of Chromium, because Google has no interest in open-sourcing its spyware.

Chrome and other offerings are intended to expand Google’s reach, so the Monster of Mountain View knows more about everybody. Google’s own executives have admitted this. On multiple occasions.

“I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions…They want Google to tell them what they should be doing nextWe know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.

– Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, August 14th, 2010

Fortunately, Google’s war on privacy is starting to receive more pushback. The European Union is weighing a strong new user data privacy law that companies like Google would be required to comply with. The current incarnation of the law has some particularly strong and useful provisions in it. Perhaps if Europe can act, it will help at least spark a conversation about something similar in the U.S.