Moving toward Facebook-worthy levels of creepy surveillance, Google has announced plans to track the activity of users across all of its partner sites, including YouTube and Gmail. The changes, which will go into effect in March and won't be optional, will allow Google to tailor ads to users based on their activity across all company-owned sites, which isn't sitting well with many consumer groups.
"Even if the company believes that tracking users across all platforms improves their services, consumers should still have the option to opt out — especially the kids and teens who are avid users of YouTube, Gmail, and Google Search," said James Steyer, chief of Common Sense Media.
An executive for the Center for Digital Democracy added, "There is no way anyone expected this. There is no way a user can comprehend the implication of Google collecting across platforms for information about your health, political opinions, and financial concerns." The company is already being eyed by the Federal Trade Commission, and may be considered in breach of antitrust laws by using its popularity as a search engine to bolster its other businesses.
For its part, Google plans to notify users via email and on its homepage, and the director of privacy for product and engineering wrote, "If you're signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we'll treat you as a single users across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience."
Well, this is a little unsettling, but based on the amount of ads I get for criminal-justice courses and luxury condos, I'd say Google has a way to go before totally nailing this whole consumer-profiling thing.