Google's New Privacy Policy and Your Money

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With Google's new privacy policy - there is much more than meets the eye.I’m sure you’ve heard part of the buzz going around about Google lately - about how they are stalking us and stealing our identities or something like that. I felt it my duty, as a proud and committed Googlephile, to submit my own voice to the lively debate, including what this all has to do with our precious money.

What’s going on.

What’s happened is that Google changed it’s privacy policy. Google is now making it easier to integrate data they collect about each users (from Gmail, Google searches, Youtube, and more) into one distinct person. Each site was already collecting information on users, but now they share that information with its other branches so that they have a more complete and accurate picture of who we are.

It’s not really a huge change, but once one starts talking about Google and privacy policies, one opens up a Pandora's box of ethics in the digital age and all that. Debate ensued: some people freaked out and some people couldn’t care less.

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My philosophy.Click the infographic for a better look. (Source URL http://tinyurl.com/78mhxnl )

The way I see it, Google is not the only one who knows a thing or two about you. As consumers we are constantly giving all kinds of information to marketers and statisticians out there. Whenever I chose one entrance over another to a store, switch the channel on my television, swipe my credit card, or return an item at the customer service desk, I am telling someone something about my shopping preferences.

Every detail - from the way a store is set up to the kinds of coupons I receive in the mail - has been planned, analyzed, and built around data from shoppers like me. I even read a recent post in Mocha Money about how Target can predict when a shopper is expecting to give birth based on how much lotion and vitamins they buy!

This isn’t meant to scare you, but to put what’s going on in perspective. The Internet is quickly becoming more and more like the physical world - in the way that marketers are harvesting our habits, that is. The only difference is that now that data can be analyzed a lot more easily and there are more points of data to collect.

This can be good for us, of course: when Google knows where I live, and I search for directions to “Sam’s Diner,” I will likely get the Sam’s Diner that is in my town, rather than sifting through dozens and dozens in the country.

Why I won’t worry about it.

For all the gains in data collected, analyzing that data is not an exact science. Marketing and advertising is based in broad customer profiles called segments and there is a vast margin or error. For example, I learned by exploring my Ad Preference Feature in Google that one of my Google Accounts thinks I am a 25-34 year old female, while my other account thinks I am an 18-24 year old male (neither of these is correct, by the way).

One article in the Washington Post compared Google’s new policy to the sci-fi Tom Cruise movie Minority Report, in which billboards could scan one’s eyes in a mall to customize ads with one’s own name! In my opinion that’s a little dramatic and more than a little optimistic. It is in our nature to be resistant to change, but when you take a moment to think, these changes really can be used to make your life easier and the products more useful. If someone doesn't like it, there are still things we can do to opt out.

What does this have to do with my money?

What Google is doing has several benefits for us, but also for them. Chief among these is that they can target ads more accurately to the consumers (us!). Marketers need information about consumers to figure out what they want and how to give it to them.

Getting the stuff we want and need makes our lives a whole lot easier, but it simultaneously makes it easier to spend money we probably didn’t have to spend. That is where we get impulse buys: when marketers have done their job right, and convince us that we need something we really didn’t. Impulse buys take our money and leave us with feelings of loss and dissatisfaction.

We can easily combat impulse buys in several ways: by becoming a hermit, giving away all our money so we can’t possibly spend it, or ImpulseSaving. Bottom line: Google’s new privacy policy can help me get the things I really need faster, but it can also present more temptations to spend unnecessarily. Be thankful, and be aware.