Google+ or minus?

The recent launch of Google+ has reignited the debate surrounding internet privacy.

Everything you need to know about Google+ and privacy

Google+, Google’s answer to Facebook, officially opened its door to everybody over the age of 18 on September 20th.  With Google+ currently the fastest growing social website, it seems people across the globe are willing to invite Google into their  social and private lives. But is what is Google planning to do with the information we share?

“Any activity or information shared or posted on these sites – the users need to know they are stored and collected by the social networking sites,” says Goh Su Gim, a security adviser for  F-Secure, a corporation which deals with computer security.

“They [Google] do though have a policy to sell some of our data,” says Sayan Unankard, a PhD student at the University of Queensland who is undertaking research on social networks sites.

Google+ can collect the data you provide them, your age, location, gender, likes and dislikes and use them to tailor advertisements towards you.

With this information and other information Google collects from the rest of their services including its search engines and Gmail, Google is primed to have and know exactly how, where and when users interact with the web. Information which is invaluable to advertisers.

“From a legal perspective Google is limited by its own terms [of service], so as long as they comply with what they tell their users they are going to do with their personal information and data then Google has fulfilled their legal obligation,” says Peter Black, a senior law lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology who specialises in internet and information security law.

Google has kept Google+‘s privacy policy short, clocking in at 1037 words, but also vague. The policy states:

We will record information about your activity – such as posts you comment on and the other users with whom you interact – in order to provide you and other users with a better experience on Google services.

“Whether they are collecting the user’s information to enhance their advertising – we do not actually know,” says Mr Su Gim.

“It’s not clear for me that what are they doing with our data and what are Google services? There are many services from Google so we don’t know which one they are using the data for,” says Mr Unankard.

If you have an issue with Google knowing about your love of squash or Kanye West, there is one thing you can do.

“These sites are voluntary, people are free to sign up to them if they wish,” says Mr Black. “If people are concerned about privacy settings they can simply use a different site or not sign up at all.”

By Chris Smith, video by James Jackson