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Google’s new privacy rules

Google’s new privacy rules roll out today. The main purpose of the change is to allow sharing of information across Google’s services in order to allow targeted advertising based on users’ behaviour across Google properties.

It’s causing quite a stink, with France’s data regulators in particular warning that the privacy rules may breach European law. Google have decided to press ahead and see what happens. It’s more than likely that after some initial mutterings the new rules will be adopted without much fuss.

When new ways of using data evolve, it’s important to have regulation and opposition to ensure the commercial desires of businesses are balanced against our rights to privacy. It seems though that we’re becoming more relaxed. Opt-ins to Facebook apps have a level of ambiguity that would have been unacceptable until very recently, but resistance is relatively low.

I’m reasonably comfortable with the idea that Google can share information about my behaviour across its services. After all they are Google’s services, and I’m choosing to use them. I’m happy to be shown more relevant advertising in return for free use of some pretty amazing stuff. Remember life before search? In fact, I wish Flickr would find a clever way to exploit my data, rather than charging me $24 a year.

Beyond the advertising benefit to Google, greater freedom with use of data will spark possibilities for whole new products, some of which will turn out to be very useful and popular. I’m very happy someone’s keeping an eye on service providers to protect my rights. But every so often boundaries must be nudged if they’re to bring us the next, more useful, more immediate and more intelligent product.

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