The shift by Google is a pretty clear acknowledgement by the company that privacy policies, like software license agreements, are generally unreadable, and therefore go unread by virtually all consumers. Google has come under sharp criticism from privacy advocates and some
consumer groups for the amount of data that they collect on users and
the ways in which the company uses that data.
“Long, complicated and lawyerly—that’s what most people think about
privacy policies, and for good reason. Even taking into account that
they’re legal documents, most privacy policies are still too hard to
understand,” Google’s Mike Yang, assistant general counsel said in an explanation of the changes. “So we’re simplifying and updating Google’s privacy
policies. To be clear, we aren’t changing any of our privacy practices;
we want to make our policies more transparent and understandable.”
Google right now has 44 separate privacy policies listed in its Privacy Center. Yang said the company will eliminate 12 of those when the changes go into effect Oct. 3.
Google also has added some content to its Privacy Center site, including a new Privacy Tools section that comprises a number of tools that let users opt-out of some of the tracking and data retention that Google does in its products. The site includes a link to the Google Dashboard, which lists all of the Google products and services linked to a given user’s account and all of the information that Google knows about that account.
The page also has links to tools that let users opt out of some ad-based services, turn on Incgonito mode in Chrome and turn on encrypted search.
“Our updated privacy policies still might not be your top choice for
beach reading (I am, after all, still a lawyer), but hopefully you’ll
find the improvements to be a step in the right direction,” Yang said in his post.