(logo from Scroogled and TechRepublic’s GeekEnd)
On March 1, 2012 that all ends. Google is modifying their policies to allow them to use every scintilla of information they have on their users for their own purposes. Let’s be clear, Google isn’t promising to make our lives better, they’re promising to make more money. You might not call that “Evil”, but it sure is not “Good”.
So I just went through Google Dashboard, and scrubbed everything I could. I don’t use Android (and won’t start now), so nothing lost there. I changed every privacy setting, cleared histories, removed profile information, etc. You won’t find me on Google+ or Orkut any longer. I’ve removed deleted contacts, profile pictures, and personal information from every product I could stand to give up. Unless a Google product makes my life significantly better, it’s history. I’m somewhat surprised at how much information Google has lying around about me.
Primarily, I have kept Search (with history turned off), Gmail, Google Reader, and Google Groups. I’ve pared down which groups I belong to, and tried to obliterate any identifying information from the profiles. Finally, I’ve logged out of my Google account, and will only log in for specific purposes. Gmail I mostly handle using dedicated mail clients, so that’s partitioned from my web surfing. Reader and Groups are the two products that will leak information about me, but I’m committed to minimizing my use of Reader going forward. Sadly, I don’t know of a way to really ditch Groups since I don’t control the selection of that product, and I really want to stay in touch with the communities that do use it.
Am I being paranoid — probably. But I’d like to try to hang onto the appearance of privacy a bit longer. Besides, if any rogue player manages to obtain Google’s data, I’d rather be safe(r) than sorry. I hear Google has decided to implement these changes to compete more effectively with the growing Facebook juggernaut. Good for them, but in my case, they’ve just lost some of my viewership and become less central to my Internet life.
PS: It’s worth noting that I’m not much of a Facebook user, but I’m likely to take this opportunity to pare back my profile information there as well.