Google recently announced its new privacy policy. This new privacy policy is intended to unify the privacy policies of each of their services into a single policy, and to increase the exchange of data amongst these services.

This new policy, set to take effect March 1, sums up the privacy nightmare that Google has become. As the services that they provide have grown in number, many of us (myself included) have become increasingly dependent on Google.

My personal list of Google shame is:

  1. Android (a phone and a tablet)

  2. Google Plus

  3. Gmail

  4. Google Reader

  5. Google Calendar

  6. Google Talk

  7. Google Voice

  8. Youtube (only signed in, I’m not an uploader or commenter)

  9. Google Maps/Navigation

I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that I use a few more than just those I listed (although Google search is not one, see below).

Consider the kind of information that Google can get about you from this list:

  • Your contact list (Gmail/Android/Talk/Voice)

  • The frequency you communicate with those contacts (Gmail/Android/Talk/Voice)

  • Your daily routine (Calendar/Android)

  • Your interests (Reader/Gmail/Plus/Search)

  • Even your location (Android via cell towers, GPS and their map of wireless networks)

This is just a short list of the obvious things, on top of this there is the information that can be gathered by data mining and other statistical techniques (if you aren’t familiar with these techniques, please take a look at this New York Times article to get an idea of the type of things that can be learned and how they can use them to manipulate you

And the thing about data mining is, a bigger data set yields more information than two smaller ones that between them have the same data as the larger. So when I found out that Google was planning to increase the interconnectivity of their services, I started thinking about the database that they will be maintaining, if they aren’t already, starting on March 1st. This database will have entries for every individual using a Google service, and will maintain these records across all of their services. This is a tremendous data set to work from, especially given the number of people using many of their services (like myself). This information they gain could also refine their filter bubbling techniques ( meaning that you’ll be less likely to see new ideas on the Internet.

But even if the thought of Google knowing everything about you doesn’t scare you (after all, “If I don’t have anything to hide” right? [wrong!]) there are other risks to having centralized databases like this. One of the areas is identity theft - with a massive centralized database a single breach means an attacker can impersonate their victim with a high level of detail. Even if you have absolute confidence in Google’s security measures (you shouldn’t) there is the potential for an abusive government (or just abusive individuals within a government) to use data they have demanded from Google to manipulate and oppress their population.

As you’ve probably guessed, this new privacy policy has pushed my pre-existing fears about Google over the edge, and as a result I’ve decided to start migrating away from many Google services.

Listed below are the Google services I’m using, and my plans for migration.

  1. Gmail - I have begun giving out a address hosted with my Dreamhost account in place of my Gmail account.

  2. Google Talk - I am investigating Dreamhost’s XMPP server.

  3. Google Reader - I’m searching for a replacement

  4. Google Calendar - I will find and install a replacement onto my server.

  5. Android - I’ll be examining the privacy enhancements in custom ROMS

  6. Google Plus - I will retain this service, but I plan to look at decentralizing especially by joining more open services like Identica and Diaspora and posting there as well

  7. Google Voice - I may look for paid alternatives for texting

  8. Youtube - I am investigating browser plugins to ensure I am signed out of my Google account when I visit Youtube

  9. Google Search - I have been using for over a year now

  10. Google Maps/Navigate - I’ll probably end up looking into a commercial application to replace this free service.

Don’t get the wrong idea from this article, this isn’t just me picking on Google and ignoring privacy violations from other companies (Carrier IQ anyone?). Its simply that Google is currently in one of the best positions to gather large amounts of data from many people, and I’ve decided to stop trading my information for their services (which is why I don’t fault them ethically like I do companies charging you for a service, and then selling your information in addition to that).

As always, paranoia circuits irrevocably engaged.

(Image credits: Google logo - Google. Image of “the One Ring” - Wikipedia.)