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cyber security: [March 2012]

Google Says New Privacy Policy Has Little Impact on Education Partners
From "Google’s New Privacy Policy Widens Net to Harvest Digital Data" by Andy Vuong, The Denver Post, February 7, 2012, "Does Google's New Policy Really Protect Student Privacy in the Cloud" by Andrew Weis, The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 7, 2012, "Google Cracks Privacy Protections in iPhones, Macs, Stanford Says" by David Sarno, The Seattle Times, February 7, 2012, and "Google Says New Privacy Policy Has Little Impact on Education Partners" by Nick DeSantis, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 1, 2012

An update on Google will mean privacy policy changes for millions of users starting March 1. The company plans to combine user data across its lineup of services, including Gmail, Android, YouTube, and others. Like Facebook, Google will not sell "personally identifiable information," but will use the collected data for targeted ads that are more effective, bolstering revenue. Google says it is not gathering any new or additional information about users, and that the privacy policies will be simpler and "more understandable." Privacy advocates say Google should ask users to opt in to the update because combining data across multiple services may expose users to new privacy harms.

For its educational customers, Google said it will not target advertisements to current students and faculty in the application's default setting. Alumni with university domain addresses will not have the same privacy protections, since Google turns off this default setting when a student graduates. The terms of universities' agreements on how student data can be used will supersede Google's privacy policy, the company said. When asked if Google's changes caused their universities to modify agreements with the company before the revised policy was introduced, some technology administrators said that their arrangements provided sufficient protections for students and that they had not made any changes.

Google is also under fire for allegedly circumventing privacy protections in the iPhone to track what users are doing online. A graduate student and privacy researcher at Stanford University said that Google had made an end run around the Web-surfing software on iPhones, iPads, and Mac users. Due to a 2010 settlement, the company has a binding agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that "bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations." Some federal legislators are now questioning whether Google violated those terms by tracking users' online behavior when they believed the tracking was disabled. If Google is found to have violated the agreement, the company could face fines of up to $16,000 per day for each violation.

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