How does Google's new privacy policy compare?

Much ado has been made about Google's new overarching privacy policy, but the company's not doing anything much different than Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, or Yahoo

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In fact, Google is going so far as to alert (or remind) users that it's possible to view every bit of data Google has collected about them via the Google Dashboard. There, you can manage the different Google services you've used. What other company provides that kind of easy access to the data it's collected about you?

One other bit of criticism out there surrounding Google's new privacy policy is that you can't opt out of having certain data shared with certain services (though you can opt out of receiving targeted ads). That's a pretty tall order, and really, if you're that concerned about data intermingling, you can provide a minimal amount of personal data to your Google account (if you must have a Google account) and only log into services when necessary. For example, you can use Google Search or Maps or YouTube without logging in to your Google Account.

Google vs. Facebook
So then, let's compare Google's new privacy policy with policies of other companies out there. Sound fascinating? I thought not.

I can cut to the chase, though, and say (again) that Google isn't doing anything unique here, neither in terms of collecting data nor sharing it among its services. The take-away for those who are deeply concerned about Google's new privacy is that you should reconsider not just using Google, but using various other sites and services until you've thoroughly reviewed their privacy policies. That's not just social networking sites, either; consider financial institutions and shopping sites that you use.

If you do want specifics about how a select few other sites handle privacy, though, read on.

The most obvious company with which to compare Google would be Facebook -- and delving into the complex depths of Facebook's privacy policy is not for the faint of heart.

In a nutshell, Facebook collects all the data you feed it: Your name, your location, your occupation, your education, your age, your gender, your sexual preference, your interests, etc. It also tracks the info you might share in a status update, such as a Web address or a photo. It tracks who you are friends with and what comments you make on their walls.

Facebook collects info your friends share about you, such as when you are tagged in a picture or checked in at a location. It also gathers information about you from games, applications, and websites you use (so long as you grant permission), as well as data given from advertisers and third parties.

Facebook uses the data in a number of ways: To provide location features and services; to come up with friends to recommend; and to target ads at you. Facebook app developers can also access certain data about you and your friends if you permit them to do so when you first use an app. Facebook also shares data about you when you use your Facebook login to enter a third-party site.

Facebook does actually offer a fairly admirable array of tools for controlling which of your data can be shared, as well as for platform apps entirely. Facebook also has various interactive tools for previewing your profile, previewing your public search profile, setting permissions for apps, and even downloading a single file that contains all the information Facebook has collected about you.

Google vs. Microsoft
Moving on, there's Microsoft (which last updated its privacy in August of last year -- I must have missed the news coverage). The company actually has a general privacy policy, along with supplemental privacy information for sixteen different services, including Bing, CRM Online,, Messenger, Windows Live, and Zune.

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