Words of the Google Privacy Policy from 1 March 2012

Comparing the language of Google’s privacy policies

Google's Policies and PrinciplesFrom the 1st of March 2012 Google is introducing a new one-size-fits-all privacy policy. Or as they’re headlining it ‘One policy, one Google experience‘. By continuing to use Google products from that date you will be accepting this policy. There will be no ‘please read then tick if you accept’ method here, which is more commonly used by the likes of Apple and PayPal when they update their terms of service or privacy policies.

On starting to read the page explaining the reasoning behind the move from sixty policies to one, it becomes very clear that the language being used is that of promotion, aiming to convince readers that this is a good idea. In and of itself this is interesting, and perhaps show some insecurities that Google may have in what they are doing.
Continue reading → Comparing the language of Google’s privacy policies

The standard Google search result is dead: why the personalised web may undermine democracy

“The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see”, says Eli Pariser.

Following up from my post on social search, and how in creating more filtered-personalised search results we get less serendipity, I thought some of you might be interested in this TED presentation from Eli Pasier.

In it, Pariser explores how the personalisation of the web – be it on Facebook, Google or elsewhere – is creating ‘filter bubbles’. Whilst the web promised us freedom from media gatekeepers, he believes that in reality there has been a passing of a torch, “From human gate keepers to algorithmic ones”.

He writes in his book:

“Most of us assume that when we google a term, we all see the same results – the ones that the company’s famous Page Rank algorithm suggests are the most authoritative based on other pages’ links. But since December 2009, this is no longer true. Now you get the result that Google’s algorithm suggests is best for you in particular – and someone else may see something entirely different. In other words, there is no standard Google any more.”

Pariser outlines why this may be a problem for society and democracy, as the web feeds us what it thinks we should know, against what we are potentially really looking for, or perhaps just need to know.

“[…] you don’t choose to enter the bubble. When you turn on Fox News or read The New Statesman, you’re making a decision about what kind of filter to use to make sense of the world. It’s an active process, and like putting on a pair of tinted glasses, you can guess how the editors’ leaning shapes your perception. You don’t make the same kind of choice with personalised filters. They come to you – and because they drive up profits for the websites that use them, they’ll become harder and harder to avoid.”

These ideas take notions of like-mindedness, such as research by Cass Sunstein, a step further, and more out of our control. Whilst many of us might actively try to follow, search for and discover ideas outside of our comfort zone, unwittingly these attempts may be in vain.

Note: For a longer extract of Pasier’s book see this piece in the Guardian.

UPDATE:
Google’s Matt Cutts responds to the questions raised by personalisation of search
Financial Times book review of The Filter Bubble by Christoper Caldwell – ‘A dystopian view of online freedoms’

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Searching with friends: will Google’s Social Search help with serendipity?

On 19 May 2011 Google announced that it would be extending its Social Search functionality to the rest of the world after first introducing it to North America back in October 2009.

Google’s Social Search integrates relevant search results from your friends and contacts into a search query when you are logged into your Google account. As they explained back in 2009:
Continue reading → Searching with friends: will Google’s Social Search help with serendipity?

Google Buzz Class Action Settlement – Gmail email

Tonight I received the following email to one of my Gmail accounts from Google and thought it would be interesting to those outside the US (where I’m currently visiting) who may not have received it:

Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we’ve reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz (http://buzz.google.com), a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year.

Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case.

The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users’ concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be.

Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at http://www.BuzzClassAction.com.

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This mandatory announcement was sent to all Gmail users in the United States as part of a legal settlement and was authorized by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Google Inc. | 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway | Mountain View, CA 94043

It’s worth noting that the settlement only applies to US users. I’m not entirely sure why I was sent the email as I’m based in the UK, but perhaps I’ve not changed the location in the settings of one account.