Google has said it plans to consolidate its existing privacy policies into one mammoth central policy, as well as simplifying its terms of service. Should you be concerned?
That change is also consistent with the general mood around Google in the Google+ era, where services are being shut down and merged into a giant search/social networking behemoth which in turn opens up new advertising opportunities. Google's one-time mantra might have been "don't be evil", but as a listed company, its actual mission (like every other company in the same boat) is "make as much money as fast as possible".
Google itself is fairly transparent about what it sees as the benefit of making the switch:
Again, I suspect many people assumed this was happening anyway, but it doesn't hurt to spell it out. There are also still lengthy separate privacy policies for Chrome, Books and Wallet. But the underlying principle is this: you need to assume that Google is actively tracking and categorising absolutely everything you do with its tools. That's not new, and personalisation can make the service extremely handy. But it helps to be aware of what you're involved with.
For many people, the notion that Google knows so much about their lives, interests and habits is disturbing. If you fall into that category, then check out our suggestions for alternatives to Google Services and our guide to searches where Google isn't the best tool anyway.
You can also opt to use Google without signing in and with cookies turned off. It won't be personalised, but it will still be useful.
What's your reaction to the change? Tell us in the comments.