The change, explained
The e-fury began when Google announced it would be condensing the vast majority of its 70-plus privacy policies and Terms of Service down to one single overarching policy effective March 1, 2012. Alma Whitten, Google's Director of Privacy, explained in a blog post that the changes would allow Google to "integrate our different products more closely so that we can create a beautifully simple, intuitive user experience across Google."
Whitten provided a couple of examples of what that "intuitive user experience" could accomplish. She pointed to the recent integration of personal Google+ data into general search results, and said that under the new policy, "We can provide reminders that you're going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day."
To provide that experience, Google will now track users (via their Google Account) as a single entity across the entire Google family of websites and products, which includes Gmail, YouTube, Picasa, Blogger, Android phones and more in addition to its omnipresent search engine. Before, each individual service tracked users separately.
Then the yelling began.
Worries about being tracked
While some people are excited about a more personally relevant Google experience, a lot of users don't like the idea of Google collating details about their Web searches, emails, social media posts and physical location. The Washington Post polled 13,541 readers and a full 66 percent responded that they would be cancelling their Google account in response to the new policies, while another 19 percent were undecided.
Worries about lack of an opt-out ability
One thing the 2005 policy included that the new one doesn't, however, is the ability to opt-out of being tracked. That bothers a lot of folks, especially since Google recently began allowing minors to create accounts. In fact, the lack of an opt-out option has prompted Congressional Representatives to contact Google about the new policies.
Worries about advertising and selling personal information
Now that Google knows everything about you, they're just going to sell that information to the highest bidder, huh? Not quite. "We don't sell your personal information, nor do we share it externally without your permission," Google's Whitten explains.
Google plans on using the data not only to deliver the aforementioned "intuitive user experience," but also to deliver highly targeted ads similar to the ones you see in the Gmail interface. Those ads help to keep Google's services free.
Some like tailored ads; others hate them. If you fall into the latter camp, you can turn personalized ads off in Google's Ad Preferences page. You can also turn off Google+ results in general Google searches via the general search settings.
So should you be worried?
"I personally don't see the new Terms of Service have having added any additional risk to the equation," Gizmodo.com's Brent Rose states. Most tech experts agree -- if you felt fine using Google services before, you probably still should.
Google acknowledges that the changes might not make everyone happy, though. In the blog post introducing the new policies, Whitten links to Google's Data Liberation Front website, which helps you pull your data out of Google's services should you so desire.
Do you so desire? What do you think about Google's new policies? Will you be closing your Google Account? Please share your thoughts in the comments!