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Google Announces A Single Privacy Policy For Its Services

What happened?

Google has announced it will create a single privacy policy to cover most of its products and services, but the move has worried some privacy campaigners. Google said that the 70 different privacy policies it currently has is too unwieldy, and reorganizing them into a single policy would make it easier for the web giant to integrate its services and share data between them, which it has been doing since the launch of its social network, Google+. "In short, we'll treat you as a single user across all our products," wrote the director of privacy Alma Whit ten in the official Google blog.

The change worries privacy activists who argue that linking the different services would give Google the power to gather huge amounts of information about people, with no way for those individuals to opt out. US regulators also raised concerns, prompting Google to write a letter to the US Congress, explaining it was simply trying to make things easier for its users.

How will it affect you?

From 1 March, most Google services will come under this single privacy policy. You'll no longer be a Gmail or Google+ user, but a Google Account holder. Google says that the change will let you share data between services, such as pulling data from Gmail to create a new event in Calendar.

Google stressed that you won't be made to sign up for services you don't want. For example, you won't be forced to have a Google+ profile page to tie everything together. You can hold multiple accounts, such as one for Gmail and another for YouTube, if you want to keep your online identities separate. Also, any private data you have in Google accounts will stay private, and won't suddenly be made public.

What do we think?

For a company that has often got into hot water over privacy, Google doesn't seem to have learned its lesson. Like Facebook, Google needs to realize that once terms and conditions are agreed to, any changes can confuse, irritate and worry users.

However, the public outcry is a bit surprising. After all, this is a road Google has long been going down, and anyone genuinely worried about the amount of data Google is collecting must have seen this coming. Also, Google has a point. The average user is much more likely to look at just one privacy policy than attempt to read 70.

Some people have called for the option to opt out, preferring their accounts not to be linked. However, that could be difficult for Google, as it has been steadily heading in the direction of linking up services, notably via Google+, which now even influences search results.