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Google’s New Privacy Policy Aims At Integrating YouTube

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Google (NSDQ: GOOG) will use email and a message on its home page to notify users about a new privacy policy that will go into effect this March. While Google is framing the changes as a simple housekeeping measure, the company is also using them to achieve larger strategic goals.

In a blog post this afternoon, Google said the initiative will consolidate a patchwork of 70 privacy policies that now cover its current products. The move is intended to allow a single Google account to act as a master key of sorts across search, email, photos and more:

In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

The announcement is a bit puzzling given that so much of Google is integrated already. Indeed, the company has been taking flack for weeks after forcing users to opt-in to Search Plus Your World, a feature that displays personalized search results replete with friends, photos and so on.

So why the major announcement? In a word, YouTube.

While Google’s core products are already bundled into its search results (if a user is logged in), the popular video sharing site is not.

Spokesman Eitan Bencuya explained to me by telephone today that YouTube and other Google acquisitions have legacy privacy policies of their own. The new scheme, which will go into effect March 1, will apply a single of rules to nearly all of them.

For Google users, this means that the personalized search results will likely become more personal still with the inclusion of video.

As for Google, the move shows the company plans to double down on personalized search at a time when it’s locked in a bitter squabble with Silicon Valley rivals over access to data.

Facebook and Twitter have been taunting Google over Search Plus Your World, saying the results are cooked because they favor the company’s own products (this is true but the feature does offer a toggle switch to show regular results). Google has retorted that its rivals are holding back data.

While Google’s personalized search product has met mixed reviews at best, the introduction of personal video results could be a potential game changer. But it is also risky at a time when regulators are circling Google over anti-trust issues. In its release, the company suggests its single account feature is actually an improvement:

Regulators globally have been calling for shorter, simpler privacy policies-and having one policy covering many different products is now fairly standard across the web.

We’ll find out what at least one set of regulators think soon enough — recent reports say the European Union will announce the results of its antitrust investigation by the end of March.

In its release, Google may also be deflect potential criticism by touting its “data liberation” project. Unlike other sites like Facebook which strictly lock down data on their own platform, Google says it allows users to easily migrate data across the web.

This policy may not only represent a way to fend-off antitrust hawks but, in the long term, a potential competitive advantage for Google.