Google: More evil than evil itself?

Google's new privacy policies are prompting more accusations of Satanic intent. But the real question isn't whether it's evil, it's how long Google holds onto your data.

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Google announced a new privacy policy this week, which can only mean one thing: It truly is evil, evil in a way that totally redefines our previous notions of evil, so evil it makes Dr. Evil look like Dr. Phil.

That at least is the impression you might get by stumbling across the blogosphere this morning. Why is everyone so upset? Two reasons. One, Google took the 70-odd privacy policies it has published for each of its services and rolled them all up into one. And deux, it is also taking the data from those 70-odd services and combining it in order to serve you ads and display personalized search results and make recommendations and do everything else Google does, which is to say, nearly everything.

Here’s the part everyone’s got their knickers in a twist about.

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.

The problem? This isn’t new. Forbes’ The Not-So Private Parts blogger Kash Hill has it right: Google’s been reserving the right to combine the data of its registered users since 2005. That much hasn’t changed. What has changed is that Google is finally getting around to doing it.

Y’all did realize that Google is an enormous nuclear-powered data-sucking engine, right? Just checking. The fact that it was sucking the data into 70 separate buckets and is now funneling all of that into one very big bucket doesn’t change the type of data it was gathering or its degree of relative evilness.

What it may change, however, is how Google interacts with law enforcement. And that’s important. Because now, instead of 70 separate court orders,  Johnny Law can serve Google with a single request for your information – one-stop shopping to find out what search terms you’ve used, YouTube videos you’ve watched, your calendar appointments, items you’ve G+1’d, and so on.

That doesn’t mean Google will automatically hand over this information; it has a pretty decent track record of resisting legal orders it has deemed overbroad. But I’m betting it will lead to an increase in the number of legal requests Google does get for “persons of interest,” if only because it suddenly makes it easier to get at.

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