How Google's privacy policy changes will affect Android

Google's simplifying and unifying how it handles your data. Android is ground zero for all the changes.

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Still image from Google's privacy policy explainer

Google maintains over 70 privacy policies for their different services, but it wants just one page of legalese to rule them all. So in “just over a month,” Google will implement a universal privacy policy for all its services. What Google is doing with your information, and why it’s really doing so, are up for debate, and Google’s Android smartphone system is at the core of that debate.

The way Google pitches their one-for-all policy, and as shown in their video explainer, anyone using any combination of Google’s services will have a single document, written in plain English, that will tell them how Google can use the information they offer up. In Google’s worldview, that means Google keeps that information from going anywhere outside their servers (unless you want to share it), and that Google will use that information to make their services work more efficiently for you. The prime examples shown in the video are recognizing irregular words you’ve typed before (”Yowza!”), showing better advertising, and, in the grand finale, knowing that you’re going to be late to a meeting you scheduled on Google Calendar, because your Android phone knows where you are, Maps knows how bad traffic is around you, and your use of Gmail or another service shows that you’re not on your way there yet.

Critics are early and eager in their suggestions that Google wants a universal all-app privacy policy for other purposes. Gizmodo suggests this is the end of Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto. The Washington Post takes a broadly negative tack on the policy, hitting the point multiple times that people signing into a single Google service, like Gmail, generally won’t anticipate that their use of Gmail affects the things they see on YouTube. There are, mind you, already a host of web sites using Google’s advertising platform that “track” you from site to site, so that you see ads for Gillette razors on one blog after searching YouTube for “straight razor shaving,” but that’s besides the point. The backlash against Google’s privacy policy change is easy to find on the web; the backlash against the backlash has already begun.

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