The Great Google Data Merge

Just over a month ago, Google announced a major change in the way it manages its customers’ data and thus does business. Google announced that it was updating its privacy policies and Terms of Service.

 

we’re rolling out a new main privacy policy that covers the majority of our products and explains what information we collect, and how we use it, in a much more readable way

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

Image via Wikipedia

 

This change involved an explicit merging of user data across all Google services. Thus the content of a message on Gmail can now be used by Google to provide more relevant search results to the user.

 

Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

 

 

While this change has many user experience benefits, it also raises several privacy concerns. Data protection agencies in the European Union are already suggesting that these changes may fall foul of EU law. In the mean time, Google has launched an aggressive campaign to ‘educate’ its users about its new policies. These changes came into effect on March 1, 2012.

 

 

 

While we’ve undertaken the most extensive user education campaign in our history to explain the coming changes, we know there has been a fair amount of chatter and confusion.

 

 

 

 

 

Read more from Google here and here.

 

 

 

 

What Facebook knows about you

The fact that Facebook keeps a record of all user data does not come as a surprise. Facebook has admitted to this in its ToS as well as through various media releases. However, the implications of this fact – how much data Facebook has on each of its users and what it knows about them – come through only when one can actually ‘see’ the data for oneself.

An Austrian law student, Max Schrems, asked Facebook to send him all the data it had stored about him – he received a CD with 1222 PDF files. The below video visualizes what Facebook knows about him.