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Google and Privacy Issues
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Google and Privacy Issues

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, by MultiMedia

As the world's biggest search and ad-broker company, Google has drawn its share of criticism and concern about the privacy of its users. Its privacy policy was revised on October 14, 2005. Additionally, privacy info about various Google services was made also available.

Information collected by Google

Google uses a unique cookie for each browser used by an individual user on a computer. This cookie contains information which allows Google to identify records about that user on its database. This cookie is submitted every time a user does a Google search, visits a site using AdSense etc. The information stored in Google's database, which is identified by the cookie, includes

  • Everything you search for using Google
  • Every web page you visit that has Google Adsense ads on it
  • Every Blogger page you visit

If you have an Adsense account, the following will also be stored

  • Your full name, address and bank account details
  • The IP address of everyone who visits your pages with Adsense ads on them
  • The number of visitors to each of your pages with Adsense ads on them

If you use a Gmail account

  • Content and addresses of emails and Usenet posts you send or receive in an Gmail account

If you're a member of Orkut

  • Your online social network, interests and groups

As well as

  • Purchases in Froogle
  • Posts through Blogger
  • Which news groups you read through Google Groups

Other information is submitted by Google's utilities, such as Google Bar.

Google's stated policies

Some say that Google explicitly states it does not share individual users' information with third parties. The whole privacy statement can be read online .

Google's Information Rights clause (see paragraph #6 at http://www.google.com/analytics/tos_en-US.html ) says Google may retain and use, and with good faith belief, access, preserve, or disclose any information deemed reasonably necessary to protect the "safety of Google".

Criticism and discussion

The main criticisms concerning privacy are:

  • The cookie's expiration date is set in the far future (as long as the standard allows), and this expiration date is updated every time the cookie is accessed.
  • There is no way a user can access or delete her/his user information kept by Google
  • There is no expiration/deletion policy for user information
  • There is no disclosure what the information is used for, e.g. target ads, targeted offers in affiliated shopping sites or targeted search results.

Google maintains that

We use cookies to improve the quality of our service and to better understand how people interact with us. Google does this by storing user preferences in cookies and by tracking user trends and patterns of how people search.

Critics, however, argue that user preferences can be stored in non-unique cookies, and that user statistics can be retrieved without referring to individual user statistics.

It is possible to delete the Google cookie at any time; however a new cookie and new records will be created the next time you visit Google or use a Google affiliated service. For each web-browser, on each computer you use, a different copy of the cookie will be stored, possibly referring to different records in the Google database.

The collection of information of users is not unique to Google. Other search providers like Yahoo! and MSN, as well as large shopping and auction sites (Amazon, Ebay) apply similar policies. Many argue, that access technologies as Microsoft Passport, suggestion services like the ones employed in ... are far more invasive to users' privacy than those employed by Google. This in turn is countered by mentioning of the ubiquity of Google's search engine, AdSense/AdWords technology and other services giving it a unique wealth of information.

External links

Google Guide made by MultiMedia | Free content and software

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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