It used to be that a person’s activity on a given Internet application was monitored solely on, and for the purpose of, that platform. That day is quickly fading away, hastened by recent action by Google.
Google plans to create and maintain essentially a single pool of information regarding any given individual, which will contain information gathered from that person’s use of any Google application. This means that information from a user’s interaction with, for example, an Android phone, Gmail, Google Search, Google Analytics and YouTube will all be conflated into a single profile about that user. The benefits to Google (and its current and potential trade partners) of adopting this approach are readily apparent, most prominently existing in the possibility of delivering highly targeted advertising and “reminders.”
The legal implications for the public and other like industry players, however, are unlikely to be regarded as favorably. At present, no opt-out from this system is contemplated. Regardless of your personal preference, you will be treated as a single user across all Google products — more importantly, one associated with a cross-disciplinary mine of valuable consumer information. This lack of opt-out choice is contrary to the privacy law rubric to which e-commerce has been increasingly subscribing for years.
If there is any party with the leverage to attempt this, it is Google, but there will certainly be significant push-back. In addition to Internet law privacy concerns, antitrust issues are also raised by Google’s proposed activity. The policy is set to take effect on March 1, so look out for imminent hand-throwing.