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Google dropped ban on personally identifiable web tracking
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-10-22 09:21:58

When Google bought the advertising network DoubleClick in 2007, Google founder Sergey Brin said that privacy would be the company's "number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products."

And, for nearly a decade, Google did in fact keep DoubleClick's massive database of web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.

But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand - literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits "may be" combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools.

The web, by definition, isn't private. The web is like a busy shopping street; you wouldn't shout your secrets for everyone to hear there either. The sooner people accept this fact, the better they'll be for it. Note that I'm not saying I'm happy about this fact - I'm just saying it is what it is. There's nothing any of us can do about it, until authorities or regulators start stepping in.

That being said, Google published a statement about this, stating this change is opt-in.

Our advertising system was designed before the smartphone revolution. It offered user controls and determined ads' relevance, but only on a per-device basis. This past June we updated our ads system, and the associated user controls, to match the way people use Google today: across many different devices. Before we launched this update, we tested it around the world with the goal of understanding how to provide users with clear choice and transparency. As a result, it is 100% optional - if users do not opt-in to these changes, their Google experience will remain unchanged. Equally important: we provided prominent user notifications about this change in easy-to-understand language as well as simple tools that let users control or delete their data. Users can access all of their account controls by visiting My Account and we're pleased that more than a billion have done so in its first year alone.

You can opt-out in the Activity Controls section of your Google account settings.

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