Google’s New Privacy Policy: What It Means to Your Business and the Internet

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Recently Google caused quite a stir when they announced that they will be changing their privacy policy for anyone logged into their Google account. Beginning March 1st more than 70 different privacy policies will be merged into one between most of Google’s products. The goal behind this move is to personalize your experience across all of their services to provide better search results and more precisely targeted ads. If you are logged onto your account through an Android phone, Google can tell you that you are going to be late for a meeting by tracking your location and the location of a meeting that is scheduled on your calendar.

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Privacy advocates are concerned with the new all-encompassing privacy policy because Google users have no way of opting out of it. If Google scans a user’s personal e-mails…you get the idea.

The lack of control over what personal information gets shared and to whom, has people questioning whether or not the Government will act. In the past, the United States has stuck to the belief that companies should regulate the way they handle privacy on their own, only when they fail does the Federal Trade Commission step in. The FTC has the ability to step in to prevent unfair and deceptive practices and many are wondering if Google’s new privacy will draw the FTC’s attention. As noted in The Economist, January 28, 2012, the global economy complicates the matter. Intercontinental commerce and the increasing amount of it on the Internet requires governments to have systems that can work with each other—despite vastly different approaches. The European Union, for example, is much more interventionist than the US. While neither India nor China have passed formal national legislation—even though each country has more Internet users than the U.S. has people–they are both considering it. The overall aim of this privacy regulation is to build a “digital single market” that will change the patchwork of rules that has been changing since 1995.

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Developments in privacy framework and regulation will impact the rules and expectations for businesses on the Internet. The new EU regulations are not set to take hold until 2016 and the U.S. is not likely to pass any privacy regulations in an election year, but the debate will continue and businesses must take steps to represent their own interests. Among those must be to freely conduct business on the Internet without compromising its information security and intellectual property.

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