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Summary:

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is purchasing display ads on websites like the *Washington Post*, an unusual move that is part of the company’s strained…

Google Europe
photo: Corbis

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is purchasing display ads on websites like the *Washington Post*, an unusual move that is part of the company’s strained efforts to define its privacy policy before its opponents can define it instead.

The ad purchase is a pivot in Google’s recent “Good to Know” marketing campaign for which it is reportedly spending tens of millions on newspaper and billboard ads. The campaign is increasingly important at a time when critics are piling on with claims that Google’s new policy is sinister and intrusvie.

The ad on WashingtonPost.com, shown below, does not adopt the cutesy touches of Google’s offline ads and simply says, “We’re changing our Privacy Policy. Not your privacy controls.”

Google’s task is difficult because its explanation is a complicated one. The reason for the changes are rooted in Google acquisitions of companies like YouTube that have legacy privacy policies of their own — meaning that Google needed a new set of permissions to combine information across its suite of products.

The move is in many ways a housekeeping measure and will not, as some have claimed, require people to sign-in when they use search or YouTube. Google is also being transparent about what it is doing and, unlike most companies, it allows users to take their data with them if they choose to stop using its services.

But the new privacy policy will also result in Google obtaining more data. And this has not only stoked paranoia about the company but also allowed opponents to pounce. Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), which has long paid proxies to smear Google, is this week taking out newspaper ads to hype the hysteria.

On top of everything else, Congress and EU regulators are also circling the company. Google is clearly in the midst of its biggest ever public relations challenge and only time will tell if it can emerge with its once-golden reputation in tact.

  1. “But the new privacy policy will also result in Google obtaining more data.”
    that’s actually false. google has already explained how it’s not obtaining more data. it’s the same data over all their sites and they are rolling it into one place. sheesh. how hard is it to figure out?

    1. Geoff, I don’t want to split hairs but I think the new ability to aggregate data can indeed be construed as “more data.” The value of combining information can’t be summarized 1 + 1 = 2.

      1. It’s not really *more* data. It’s a more accurate, or more complete, or more whatever use of that data. Google has always had this information about its users, but the data was split up into pieces that were only connected to specific Google services like YouTube and Docs. Separated by somewhat, more-or-less walled gardens. Now they’re putting the data together to form a more complete picture. It’s like before, your data was in jigsaw puzzle pieces, and maybe they could put some of them together, three or four here, five or six there. Now they can put all your jigsaw puzzle pieces together and see the whole image. Or, as much of the image as you’ve given them puzzle pieces for in the first place.

        And yes, there is some cause for concern about this. But how much concern? Google wants us to think not much at all. Microsoft and others want us to think quite a bit. But the truth is…?

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