With Google’s new privacy policy, who needs Bill C-30?

You cannot say that you haven’t been warned. “We’re changing our privacy policy and terms. This stuff matters.” This is a message that you have been seeing lately on the Google search engine. You have been given a full month notice to read and understand Google’s new privacy policy, which will apply March 1. That’s tomorrow! After that, you will be considered informed and consenting.

What’s the deal here? According to Google, the corporation is simply getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that’s a lot shorter and easier to read.”  In other words, the terms of use for Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube, Google News, Google Maps, Android, Google Chrome … whether for simple sites, a mobile operating system or browser, all will now be governed by the same rules.

No big deal, you say! But here is the kicker. The new policy will then allow Google to combine the information, that users like you and me have provided –wittingly or not– to these services to create a unique and essentially complete profile for each of its customers.  The same database will contain everything Google has on you: your browsing history, search history, geo-location coordinates, your favorite videos, diary, the stories you read, the books you download, you name it.

Never mind this little thing called “privacy”, Google boasts of the convenience and the tremendous opportunities offered by this new system: by comparing your agenda, your geo-location and traffic conditions, “we may send you reminder notifications if you are going to arrive late to a meeting! “

But what will really change from what we have already given up about our personal and professional lives? In the words of the “Electronic Frontier Foundation”:

“Until now, your Google Web History (your Google searches and sites visited) was cordoned off from Google’s other products. This protection was especially important because search data can reveal particularly sensitive information about you, including facts about your location, interests, age, sexual orientation, religion, health concerns, and more. If you want to keep Google from combining your Web History with the data they have gathered about you in their other products, such as YouTube or Google Plus, you may want to remove all items from your Web History and stop your Web History from being recorded in the future.”

But you still have one day to “protect yourself” before the new policy takes effect, starting with the option of disabling the history of search and navigation feature located on: google.com/history.  Here is how to do it.  Check also this if you want to “get off the Google merry-go-around”.

If you have not done so until now, Google would retain all the sites you visited, all searches, and in all sections of the search engine (pictures, videos, news, maps.) starting from the date you opened a Google account, which could have been several years ago. The history displayed there will be kept indefinitely on Google’s servers.

Note that deleting the history removes the capacity of Google algorithms to “personalize” the search, which can then suggest more relevant results to users based on their past clicks and their surfing habits.

The “dashboard” of Google services (accessible at :google.com/dashboard) is another story. There you realize, for example, that Google knows the identification number of a mobile Android, once linked to a Google account, the number of installed applications and their history of updates, the date and time of the last activity of an application, the list of people with whom one is in contact even if indirectly, such as through a mutual friend on Google + … And if you think you have any say about the privacy and the terms of use for this kind of information, you must belong to a different era.

Canada doesn’t seem to be alarmed by this arrangement, but the Europeans are concerned. France’s data protection watchdog (also on behalf of the European Union) has cast doubt on the legality and fairness of Google’s new privacy policy, which it said breached European laws. In the US,  36 state attorneys general have expressed concerns about this new policy, while others argued about its non-compliance with President Obama’s proposed privacy ‘Bill of Rights.’

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