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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If you use an Android phone, you might assume you’re at ground zero for Google’s new universal data policies, and you’d be mostly right. Here, then, is a hit list of everything Android and mobile-related that Google says you should be aware of, taken from the preview version of their universal privacy policy (dated to be effective March 1, 2012).

  • “Device information.” Google says it may collect your hardware model, operating system version, unique device identifiers, and mobile network information, including phone number, and associate those identifiers with your Google Account.

  • “Log information.” Among the things Google states it may save in its server logs are your phone number, the number you’re calling, forwarding numbers, times and dates of calls, and SMS routing information. These seem to relate primarily to Google Voice and the free calling features in Gmail and Google+. Google states they’re saved in server logs, but doesn’t clarify who might have access to those logs.

  • “Location information.” Pretty standard knowledge at this point: Google will use your device’s GPS, Wi-Fi signals nearby, and cell tower triangulation to figure out where you are and serve up local-focused search results and ads.

  • Google Wallet has its own privacy rider, even in the simplified, universal Google policy.

There are lots of details to find the devil in, if you’re looking for him. The gist I take away from reading over Google’s new policy is that your identity, your true name and personality as you’ve used it across Google’s services, is more important to Google than ever before. Google+ isn’t just a social network where you can post cat pictures, catch up with friends, and perhaps see a few ads that help pay the server bills. Google+, and your associated Google Profile, is, to paraphrase Jeffery “The Dude” Lebowski, the rug that really ties the room together.

That profile, that account, is now the main way that Google decides which search results and ads show up in every service they offer results and ads. You can opt out of personalized ads, but Google will still log all the services on your Android phone as being used by one particular user, not a barrel full of semi-anonymous cookies.

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