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Monday, January 30, 2012

Google's new world and your privacy: Why you should worry

Google's new world and your privacy: Why you should worry

A significant part of your life revolves around Google. You use Gmail for work as well as personal emails. You use Google+ for virtual bonding and sharing content. You use Picassa to store photos, andYouTube for your fix of video clips. 

You know Google is tagging advertisements as well tailoring search depending on your web history. But, starting March 1, Google will do something more. Under its new privacy policy, it will combine data from all its services in one place, as part of its 'Google Plus Your World' programme. 

This can be useful. But also troublesome. Suppose User X watched a little too much of belly dancing video clips on YouTube. When he and his kids are using his account and are on Picassa, browsing family photos, an advertisement for a service tagged to his YouTube habits may appear. Embarrassing? Would you like more privacy? Google thinks the service will be incredibly empowering. 

Google Getting Personal 

Google Plus Your World, and the new privacy policy, is at the centre of a vision. In 2010, Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow and the man in charge of the search engine algorithms that power the company's core services, talked about a concept called 'Search Without Searching'. 

"In a world where we are ever connected to the internet, the possibilities are limitless. For example, imagine you have to buy a cricket bat. Now, your smartphoneknows this because it is in your to-do list. Your smartphone also knows where the cricket bats are available because it uses Google's map and listing services," said Singhal. 

"Imagine that you are in a market where there is a shop selling cricket bats. Your smartphone, using information from a GPS receiver, can not only ping you to remind you but can also show the shop on a map." 

This is just an example of the kind of services Google wants to enable for its users. More personal. More relevant. Beyond ordinary search. This has to do partly with Google taking the competition to Facebook andTwitter

You can probably get a better recommendation for a restaurant in Mumbai from your Mumbai-based friends on Facebook than via 'googling'. But Google can attempt to do that if it can connect all the dots of your web life and offer an integrated service. 

It's no coincidence that Mark Zuckerberg had said in 2010 that privacy has ceased to be a social norm. On Facebook, users share content that just some years ago would have been unthinkable. So, norms have changed. And so have your needs, argues Google.  

Google's new world and your privacy: Why you should worry
Imagine that you are in a market & there is a shop selling bats. Your smartphone ping you & also show the shop on a map. Google wants these services enabled for its users.

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