Privacy versus personalisation: Google’s privacy check-up tool

A brief discussion of Google’s new privacy setting tool for its subscribers, Privacy Checkup.
If you did not know it before, you know it now: Google is more than a search engine. The firm, Google Inc., owns and manages dozens of other online platforms, including: Gmail (email); YouTube (video streaming); Google Drive (a cloud storage); Google Docs (an office suite); Google+ (a social network); and Picasa (photo editing and management), to name a few.

In the beginning, many of Google’s products not only operated independent of each other, they also had different terms of use, and privacy and security policies. Further, recognising the behemoth that Google has become, there has been growing concerns about how invasive the firm might be, and the extent to which it collects and uses user data.

In an effort to allay fears, but perhaps also to increase cohesion among its services, over the past three years, Google has been trying to unify and simplify the user experience. A few of the changes made were:

  • to have a one-time registration, hence a single username and password, to access all of its online properties, and
  • to simplify its position on privacy and establish a common policy across most of its products and services.

Google’s new privacy tool

In the past few weeks, Google has again been in the news about privacy. Of interest to us is the new “Privacy Checkup” it has introduced, which gives Google subscribers more control of their privacy. This tool uses a wizard to guide subscribers through a straightforward process through which they can decide, among other things:

  1. what Google+ profile information they share with others
  2. how people connect with them
  3. how their Google Photos settings is managed
  4. how to personalize their Google experience, and
  5. how to make the ads they see more relevant to them.

The privacy check-up can be accessed and updated at any time, thereby allowing users to tweak the settings as they are comfortable.

It is all about control

In giving subscribers greater control of their privacy, they can now decide how much information Google has on them, and perhaps more importantly, how personalised their experience is on the various services the firm manages. As much as we might be concerned about our privacy online, we do tend to appreciate the relevant content Google and other platforms can provide with seemingly little effort. However, to an appreciable extent, the success of their predictions of our likes and dislikes comes from being able to track our movement online. Essentially, a trade between privacy versus a personalised online experience will need to be made.

Having said this, for those who desire greater privacy, it is critical that they update their privacy settings accordingly. The Privacy Checkup provides a one-stop tool through which it can be done.


Image credit:  Josh Hallett (flickr)