Google Changes Privacy Policy – Lifts the Ban on Use of Personally Identifiable Information for Website Tracking

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    Google has made changes to its privacy policy which promised to keep DoubleClick’s massive haul of web-browsing records separated from user names and other personally identifiable information that the search giant has gathered from Gmail and its other login accounts. Google has instead altered the language in its privacy policy to now say that browsing habits of users may be used along with other user information that it gleans from Gmail and its other tools.

    Paul Ohm, faculty director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law while talking about this move from Google said “The fact that DoubleClick data wasn’t being regularly connected to personally identifiable information was a really significant last stand.  It was a border wall between being watched everywhere and maintaining a tiny semblance of privacy. That wall has just fallen.”

    What the change in Google’s privacy policy means is this – DoubleClick ads will now be personalized based on the user’s name and other information collected by Google. The search giant however, clarified that at present it does not use Gmail keywords to target web ads.

    This change is a default fixture for new Google accounts while existing account holders were sent opt-in prompts to the change a few months back. Users who want to opt-out of Google’s identified tracking can do so by going to Activity controls on Google’s My Account page, and simply unchecking the box next to “Include Chrome browsing history and activity from websites and apps that use Google services.’’ In addition users can also delete past activity from their account.

    The online advertising industry has always maintained that web tracking is mostly anonymous. However, in the recent last couple of years companies such as Facebook have been more open and proactive about combining web tracking data with people’s real names. This move from Google once again highlights how web tracking is increasingly being used in delivering targeted marketing to consumers.

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