Google’s prying eyes to get closer

(Image from webannoyances.com)
The countdown is on for Google to make controversial changes to its site that have privacy campaigners up in arms. All of their users’ personal data will be gathered and stored in personal profiles for use at Google’s discretion in one week’s time.

­The changes are set to come into effect on March 1 and it seems that users will not have any choice but to comply. Internet users will be given the option to accept the new privacy policy or lose access to a large number of sights.

The alteration to their privacy policy could allow Google to share the compiled personal information with advertisers.

Google maintains that the new changes merely “reflect a desire to create a simple product experience.”

The company also came under fire recently after it was found to be covertly tracking users of the Apple browser Safari without consent. As a result the internet giant was accused of violating a privacy agreement with the Federal Trade Commission. Violations of the agreement constitute a fine of $16,000, although it is unclear how many time Google violated the settlement.

­Washington, too little too late

Meanwhile, Washington has put forward a bill of privacy rights plan aimed at curtailing corporate tracking on the web and will eventually give the government more rights to police the activities of firms like Facebook and Google.

It will also provide internet users with more of a say on how their user information is collected and used.

"This initiative seeks to protect all Americans from having their information misused by giving users new legal and technical tools to safeguard their privacy," stated the White House on Thursday.

The bill does not impose any immediate obligations on online firms as it is not yet law.

Internet goliaths Google and Mozilla Project have voiced their approval of the proposed bill, but it is still not clear whether they will toe the line on the new proposal. Google issued a statement on Thursday saying that it was prepared to “adopt a broadly consistent approach” to the proposed bill. It also says that it will install a “no tracking option” in its browser Google Chrome.

However, many experts think there is too much leeway for big firms to blur the bill and get around it.

"The real question is how much influence companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook will have in their inevitable attempt to water down the rules that are implemented and render them essentially meaningless," said John Simpson, spokesperson for US consumer watchdog.

Not only has Google been in the firing line for its dubious approach to its privacy policy, but Facebook has also fallen foul of privacy campaigners. The social networking site has been accused of tracking its visitors.

Richard Stallman, pioneer of the free software phenomenon spoke to RT regarding Facebook’s tracking methods.

“Facebook does massive surveillance. If there is a ‘like’ button in a page, Facebook knows who visited that page. And it can get IP address of the computer visiting the page even if the person is not a Facebook user," Stallman said.