Being that its been such a disastrous few weeks for Google in the privacy violation department I thought I'd go back to the topic of its new privacy rules as well as get into some of the important technicalities associated with Do Not Track protections in light of the President's proposed Privacy Bill of Rights.
First, let's go to reigning anti-privacy global champion Google, who is changing its privacy policies this week, placing 60 of its 70 existing product privacy policies under one blanket policy and breaking down the identity barriers between (to accommodate its new Google+ social network software) them as well. In other words, Google will combine data from all its services, so when users are signed in, Google may combine identity information users provided from one service with information from other services. The goal is to treat each user as one individual across all Google products, such as Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube and other Web services. You can read more about this policy in a recent post of mine.
Then we find out that Google has been bypassing the privacy settings in Apple's Safari browser. This is of particular concern and importance because that system, and those users, are specifically INTENDING that such monitoring be BLOCKED.
Unfortunately, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the court had no authority to force the FTC to keep Google in check. As detailed by Courthouse News, this isn't Google's first brush with the law: In June 2011, a federal judge approved an $8.5 million class action settlement brought by 31 million Gmail users who sued Google for exposing their personal information through its recently discontinued email feature, Google Buzz. In their lawsuit, users called the feature, which automatically shared their information with their email contacts, an "indiscriminate bludgeon" that could reveal the names of doctors' patients or lawyers' clients, or even the contacts of a gay person "who was struggling to come out of the closet and had contacted a gay support group."
So what does Google's new policy mean to you and what are some ways to better protect your privacy?
In the browsers that now support the Do Not Track header, a user tells sites he or she does not want to be tracked by setting a single option. In Mozilla's Firefox, for instance, that's done through the Options (on Windows) or Preferences (Mac) pane by checking a box marked, "Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked."." That of course...just how well it does that and how is the million dollar question."