Earlier this week, when Google announced it would be consolidating 60-some privacy policies into one simple form, the reaction from privacy wonks was pretty much: No, Google! Bad! Google already drastically revamped its primary search function by integrating social connections (err, meaningless Google+ connections) into your browser with Search, Plus Your World.
It’s all part of the company’s efforts to further integrate products like YouTube, Google Calendar, and Gmail into one Google Account, so that once you’re logged in, information is shared across products. Most surprisingly, THERE WAS NO OPT OUT. Larry Page reportedly told employees who objected to get on board or get out.
At the time, Danny Sullivan compared it to some kind of dystopian version of Miranda rights, “Anything you do can be used to target you?” It would be almost like Google knows you better than you know yourself, the company seemed to imply:
“But there’s so much more that Google can do to help you by sharing more of your information with … well, you. We can make search better—figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink. We can provide more relevant ads too. For example, it’s January, but maybe you’re not a gym person, so fitness ads aren’t that useful to you. 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. Or ensure that our spelling suggestions, even for your friends’ names, are accurate because you’ve typed them before. People still have to do way too much heavy lifting, and we want to do a better job of helping them out.”
Buried into the announcement was one small nod to transparency about kind of information, exactly, Google has been collecting about you with a link to its Ads Preferences Manager, which “enables you to edit the interest categories we advertise against or turn off certain Google ads altogether.”
Ars Technica’s Casey Johnston decided to make a game of letting Google guess your age and gender by tweeting out the link. A male friend in his mid-twenties first sent it to us yesterday afternoon, along with the news that Google thought he was a “65+ year-old man. No joke.”
“I think it’s the slow jamz I play on ‘the Youtube,'” he conjectured.
We tried it ourselves and got “25-34 man.” The age was right, the gender, eh, not so much. Under “categories” of interest we saw why they made that assumption: business–venture capital, business–technology, business–finance, etc.
Somehow, when we checked again this afternoon, those more detailed categories were gone (did someone tell them about the game??). Left in its place were only three interests: “Games, Shopping, World Localities – Asia – West Asia – Israel.” Hahaha, um, what? Well, there was that time we really wanted to go to Urumqui and our feature about Israeli startups, but if that’s all the GOOG knows about us, our privacy concerns seem overblown. That is until March 1st, when one policy to rule them all goes into effect. Until then, everyone take a shot for every year Google is off on your age. What the hell, it’s almost Friday.