Google Privacy Policies and You

By January 25, 2012Internet Lawyer

It appears that Google is in the process of streamlining its privacy policies for its services (YouTube, Gmail, Google Search, Google Analytics etc.) and will use the data it obtains on you as a user of its multiple platforms to deliver content. This includes behavioral targeted advertising.

Some privacy advocates are having a hissy fit because there isn’t an ability to opt-out of how Google will use your data. What they don’t realize is that Google has been collecting this data for years. The new development is that the company will now openly combine the data across platforms in order to more efficiently and effectively deliver content based upon your behavior.

All those benefits of using Google means many users mistakenly believe Google is their BFF.

But Google is a for-profit business. Its purpose is to make money. The company is not your BFF or even an ordinary friend for that matter.

If you’re using Google in your business or personal life, remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone is paying for Google to exist, for its research and development, and for the content it delivers to you.

Even if you’re not paying money to advertise on Google, you’re paying in other ways, including the behavioral data that’s being tracked. If you’re uncomfortable with that, don’t use Google. No one is putting a gun to your head and requiring you to use Gmail, Google Calendar, or the search engine.

In the brick-and-mortar world, let’s say you own an auto dealership. You offer free maintenance checks to anyone with a car, knowing that the freebie inspections will provide you with a market of potential clients who need to buy a new car or even pay to have repairs done to their existing vehicles.

You also get paid by local gas stations and car washes for placement of advertising in your windows for their businesses. Chances are the driver getting a free maintenance checkup will need to gas up the vehicle or get it washed soon.

Now imagine those taking advantage of your free maintenance checks start making demands on your dealership in order to protect their privacy. They insist that you have no right to recommend repairs, suggest they buy a replacement car, or permit advertising by local gas stations and car washes.

You would be perfectly within your rights to deny such an obnoxious driver access to your freebie inspections. If the driver didn’t like your terms, he could get his inspections somewhere else.

The same thing can be said about Google. If you don’t like Google’s privacy policies, find an alternative service provider. Let the market determine whether Google is making the right decision instead of demanding that Google change its business model in order to accommodate those who want to leech without bringing anything to the table.

What if Google changes its privacy policies after collecting your data? There’s where potential legal liability comes into play. If Google collects your data under one policy, then reneges on it, the company may face private lawsuits by users and get hit by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for such practices.

As a final note, remember that Google is not your BFF. In fact, Google (like other companies) is your potential competitor. If you’re making money online, you should assume that any data you provide Google can and will be used by the company to determine whether or not it wants to enter your niche either directly or through venture capital investing in one of your competitors.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Internet Lawyer Mike Young provides contracts and other efficient legal solutions to business owners and C-level executives of privately held companies. To get legal advice from Mike, click here to set up your phone consultation with him.

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