back to article Google’s privacy policy: Incoherent and confusing

Google’s new combined Privacy Policy (March 2012) has been widely criticised by privacy professionals and Data Protection Authorities (in particular the CNIL – the French Data Protection Authority). However, so far the reasons for this criticism have been made in general terms. Here is a more detailed explanation. Google’s …


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  1. Tom 7

    A fool and their data

    are easily parted.

    I am wondering whether their should be a real internet driving license so the information highway is not cluttered with fools on bicycles and good Samaritans taking shiny things that are glittering in their face.

    Googles 'policy' is only as lax as it can get away with. Don’t send me your credit card number and I'll promise not to use it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A fool and their data

      People should not be put in a position where they can be easily parted from their data by unscrupulous companies.

      It is those companies who should have to take the test and then punished in the courts when they fail to abide by the laws they either break or try and circumvent

    2. Miek

      Re: A fool and their data @Tom 7

      What's wrong with Bicycles?

      1. Kirbini

        Re: A fool and their data @Meik

        How quaint. You've not been to America then, have you?

        1. Miek

          Re: A fool and their data @Meik

          Um, yes I have visited America, what's your point exactly? Are bicycles somehow different in the USA as compared with the rest of the world ?

          1. Stoneshop


            >Are bicycles somehow different in the USA as compared with the rest of the world ?

            Kinda. In the US bikes are rarely used non-recreationally, where in the rest of the world people use them for day-to-day transport.

          2. Kirbini

            Re: A fool and their data @Meik

            Bikes are not different per se, just the ability to ride them.

            The Attitude:

            We are Americans; we drive big cars. Bicycles simply slow things down and get in the way. Bicyclists are namby-pamby PETA-loving hippies and not to be trusted. Indeed we take every opportunity to run them off the road should we encounter one. If it has 2 wheels it better have one damn big-and-loud motor or be a trailer hauling some form of large-motored recreational vehicle.

            I'm not sure how you missed that.

            ps. next time I'll remember to use the joke icon.

    3. Wayland Sothcott 1

      Re: A fool and their data

      I was just remarking how if the hackers crash a NASA rocket we will need a computer licence. I think that would be a bad idea.

    4. Ian Michael Gumby

      Re: A fool and their data

      Tom, it's not just their data, but your data. Your contact information is also being slurped by google when your friend give Google access to his data.

    5. Stoneshop

      I think you mean

      A fool and their data are easily parsed.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google are under investigation the world over

    Google really does think it can do what it likes. Thankfully that isn't the case. Their lack of respect for the law and the individual are a matter of policy across the globe.

    Google is facing anti trust with the EU

    Google blocked form forming illegal monopoly

    Google rejects EU request to delay its March 1st implementation of its new privacy policy

    The Federal court is speeding up it's review of googles privacy policy

    They are being looked at closely regarding their use of patents since the Motorola take over

    All they have to do is comply with local privacy laws and make things clear in their policies and the problems will take care of themselves in the case of this article. The other case I mentioned here show their general disregard for the law. This could come back and bite them pretty hard

  3. Anonymous Coward

    What is there not to understand?

    Although I fully agree that there are major security concerns here lets not make things worse then they are, shall we?

    One of the authors claims is that Google uses overlapping terms. So "Personal information" with "Information" and "Sensitive Information". But how hard is it really to follow up?

    "Information we collect", obviously this is a broad term because it can include anything. Its split in two; stuff we give them (by opening an account), and stuff we provide through use of their services. And here its made fully clear what's being collected: "device information, log information, location information, unique application numbers, local storage (wtf?), cookies & identifiers". All of these terms are described in a separate paragraph.

    So if you, like me, go WTF? after reading "local storage" (are they keeping track of my free diskspace?!) then read the paragraph: "We may collect and store information (including personal information) locally on your device using mechanisms such as browser web storage (including HTML 5) and application data caches.". What is there not to understand here?

    And if you wonder what a cookie is then Google has all those so called "key terms" covered as well:

    And to finish, Google even makes it quite clear how you can "fight" this. In short; review & control info you provide, view & edit ad preferences, check your profile, control who you share info with (google+ related), and you can even take information away from them:

    One whole site dedicated to help end users of Google products (Youtube, Calendar and even Analytics) to "get the f* away!".

    Even more: (quote from the policy page): "You may also set your browser to block all cookies, including cookies associated with our services, or to indicate when a cookie is being set by us. However, it’s important to remember that many of our services may not function properly if your cookies are disabled. For example, we may not remember your language preferences. "

    Do I think Google poses a certain threat wrt privacy? Absolutely! Do I think that they may indeed violate certain laws? I wouldn't rule it out up front.

    But I don't think you can accuse them of not providing the information you need to read up for yourself what and how they're using whatever information you provide them. Now, whether all this info is true or not... that is something I don't know. But it IS there.

    IN FACT... In some cases Google is even more transparent than Microsoft is. Whoah, bold statement eh?

    Windows 8 syncs a lot of your settings to the "cloud". So stuff as color scheme, desktop background, theme settings, etc. This isn't put on your local SkyDrive, nor is it put onto the 5Gb separate "synced storage" which is also part of the deal. No, this is put onto a "separate section which is only accessible by Windows". And in order to make sure all is secure its encrypted and whatever. Also (this is what I /do/ believe:) they don't sync sensitive data such as logon credentials until you confirmed that the new Win8 PC is to be trusted.

    But; what happens with all the synced data when you stop using Windows 8? Heck; what /exactly/ is being synced? Even if you don't opt-in for this sync stuff then it /will/ store some data. I've tried by wiping win8 clean and re-installing it. Amazing; my desktop had the exact same theme (Naruto) as before. On a pristine Win8!

    Try finding out /where/ this data is stored and more importantly; how you can access /your/ data in order to wipe it clean. You won't. I asked on TechNet 3 days ago, no response as of yet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is there not to understand?

      "We may combine personal information from one service with information, including personal information, from other Google services. ... We will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google when we have your consent to do so. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information."

      So what's the difference between 'your consent' and 'opt-in'?

      "We will not combine DoubleClick cookie information with personally identifiable information unless we have your opt-in consent"

      Nowhere does the DoubleClick cookie get explained.

      "You may also set your browser to block all cookies"

      But Google records information in ways other than cookies including: "anonymous identifiers", "your phone number, calling-party number, forwarding numbers, time and date of calls, duration of calls, SMS routing information and types of calls", "unique application number" "that ... periodically contacts our servers, such as for automatic updates."

      I'm not saying it's wrong. But it is unclear as to how you consent and what information you can screen out and whether blocking cookies always blocks tracking.

  4. Turtle_Fan

    What's even more worrisome

    Is society's at large very lax attitude towards privacy and intrusion. (And no, CISSP's and associated fellow-paranoids are not "society at large").

    It looks like we are destined to re-learn all our lessons once again, and the hard way.


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err, sorry, what Murdoch trouble?

    So what exactly is the trouble with regards NI you are referring to?

    1. Are they being investigated for espionage? That is the letter of the law if you gain unauthorized access to government documents including those of the Ministry of Defense. If I hack into the MOD or bribe a public official from there I will do some serious porridge time. Did anyone of them get charged under the correct statute for that one? No.

    2. Did they manage to perform a round of redundancies under the guise of "we close this newspaper" and just moved the same operation to the name of "Sun on Sunday"? Yes.

    3. Yeah, a few thousands here, a few thousands there. Who cares - cost of doing business. It is nothing compared to millions from advertising and circulation revenues. Same as for Google.

    Data is the new gold, and data handling is the new railroading. It is about time the Data Protection fines and remedies are put in line with the competition commission fines. If this is not done Google, NI and their like will just continue to treat that as "cost of doing business".

    1. Wayland Sothcott 1
      Big Brother

      Re: Err, sorry, what Murdoch trouble?

      NI is being coerced. They are suffering a bit of arm twisting instead of full justice in return for them towing the New World Order line. They will do OK in the end, as we have seen from Sun on Sunday. Same crap with Johnathan Ross, slap him down but let him get up again if he does what he is told.

    2. 5.antiago

      Re: Err, sorry, what Murdoch trouble?

      I like the conclusion of your comment re gold and railroading but it doesn't follow really from your three points, it's like you're making two comments at once. Anyway, your second point is a good one and I agree.

      RE the first part, you don't fully understand. NI are having troubles because their business is essentially trading eyeballs for advertising dollars, underwritten by investor confidence in the whole model. What's happening at the moment is threatening each of those three prongs.

      Legally, their access to eyeballs might be reduced. Meanwhile, less eyeballs are interested because widening disgust with their style and methods (an extension of the Hillsborough effect). Advertisers run scared (this is what killed the NOTW) because of the aforementioned factors and this equals less money for profit, dividends and future business growth which in turn causes share prices to tank as investor confidence falls through the floor, which has the FURTHER effect of hamstringing future grand expansion plans like buying controlling interests in BSkyB.

      And so on and so forth - there's a potential vicious circle here, a whirlpool that NI are skirting the edges of right now. That's the trouble being referred to

  6. Andy Fletcher

    Criticisms of Google’s Privacy Policy

    Incoherent and confusing. And that's just how I likes it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "The Murdochs thought they were so large and powerful that they were invincible"

    But they are getting away with it, and Google will too.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Compared to IOS?

    which Apple were shocked to find they do not understand.

    Or was the cash cow 'pulling the udder one'?

    I guess it works on the basis of if you can't understand it you can't report it.

  9. Stephen Hunt

    Other search providers are available.

    I would list them but it is just as easy for you to Google them. Er, wait, hang on...

  10. Turtle

    Kind of makes you wonder.

    "However, because they are “free”, it does not mean that Google can take the privacy of its users for granted in order to maximise profit."

    Well, to this point in time, as a matter of actual fact, this statement is wrong. They can do so and they have been doing so and they are determined to continue doing so.

    I guess Google thinks that if their privacy policy is -sufficiently- incoherent, then it can legally said to have no legal meaning. And if it has no legal meaning, then Google can't violate it, now can they? Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?

  11. Eguro

    EU laws

    The point of EU wide laws on privacy must be two-fold.

    It provides the population with only one "privacy agreement" which they need to know

    It provides companies with an easy guide to follow as to how to construct their privacy policy.

    When companies then try to circumwent this law, they should be punished - severely.

    Now if only the world actually worked like this.

  12. Harry

    Of course it is confusing,

    Terms and conditions are *meant* to be confusing.

    If they were understandable, and anybody bothered to read them, nobody would accept them.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Messages Coming out of Leveson

    You can ignore EC privacy laws, and the regulator - the impotent ICO - will not take any action.

  14. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    It's fine print

    You're NOT expected to actually read it.

    1. Miek
      Big Brother

      Re: It's fine print

      and it's only 'fine' print in an effort to prevent you from reading it.

  15. BoxedSet

    How far the wrong side of correct can G00gle get? This is wrong on so many levels, and a clear pointer to the way things are trying to go.... the [invasion of] privacy policy is so unclear to be confusing in the extreme to the layman. Glad I don't use the big G for anything (including their free OS). They are in the business of collecting data <full stop>

    Now, where's my tin foil hat ;-)

  16. jubtastic1

    News International vs Google

    Not really comparable, NI isnt too big to fall, they're on a downward spiral to oblivion, as the Internet, and let's not be coy, Google makes paper, presses and reporters a little less valuable every day, The news of the world shutting down barely registers economically.

    Google OTOH, really is too big to fall, their fingers are in so many pies: search, apps, DNS, maps, voice, advertising etc that should they go offline there would be worldwide disruption, serious money would be lost and that's essentially why none of this is going to get much further than wrist slapping.

    It doesn't matter how broken or annoying a thing is, only a fool throws it away before they have a replacement.

    Some may think I'm exagerating, but just considering the implications of google and its newly combined services breaking down for a day, and the sort of people that would be ringing my phone gives me a headache.

  17. Gordon Pryra

    Google not to big to fail.

    Google make so much cash because they have a massive stable of very good apps.

    This however does not make them too big to fail. If Google were to end tonight, then people would be pissed, but would just move on to the alternatives.

    This is how Google get past the monopolies laws, they are top because their products are better than the alternatives, but there ARE alternatives.

    Googles existence therefore depends on whatever they are giving the various "interested party's" much like NI bribing the police. Those bribes allowed them to operate and to keep out of jail once it all blew up.

    After all no one from NI is being done for espionage as someone up the list pointed out. And the News of the World is still in print



      If you want people to take you seriously you might want to learn that the plural of 'party' is PARTIES.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Gordon Pryra

        Re: @Gordon


        Dammit, that's what I get for relying on Google Chrome's spell check function.

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