Google announces mandatory privacy changes

Jeff Hargarten

Search giant Google announced Tuesday it plans to follow user activity across all of its websites, including Gmail and YouTube, The Washington Post reported.

Google has long collected this data, but will start combining it in earnest to paint fuller portraits of its customers. The company can collect information on users when they activate Android smart phones, sign-in to their accounts or run searches while it plants tracking cookies on customer devices.

These changes in policy will be enacted March 1, and users cannot opt out, drawing additional scrutiny from government regulators.

The new tracking policy is meant to aid Google in better tailoring searches to its customers’ tastes, including more targeted, localized advertisements. Google also claims this will aid consumers in better finding the services they need.

Privacy advocates view this as an affront to securing personal information, especially towards children and teens who frequent Gmail and YouTube.

Analysts say the move is directed at Apple and Facebook, companies that have been posting strong earnings while building more unified content systems, in contrast to Google’s scattered web presence.