Understanding Google's Privacy Policy Changes for Google Apps at Berkeley Lab

Earlier this month, Google made big headlines with a major overhaul of its privacy policies. Google has described these changes as necessary to both simplify its policies and enable more customized content across its services. Critics have charged that the new policies make changes that are privacy-unfriendly and that the new policies permit too much freedom of action by Google.

I want to spend a few minutes talking about what this means from the perspective of LBL's use of Google Apps.

Short Summary: There are no implications for LBL's use of Google Apps. Google cannot combine data from your personal and LBL accounts. Google is not doing anything new with your LBL data that was not previously contemplated. However, there are some, in our opinion extremely modest, implications for users in their use of non-core google services with their LBL identity.

Longer:
First, it's important that we distinguish between the core and non-core services and how they are governed. LBL (UC) contracts with Google to provide the Google Apps Suite (Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sites, Control Panel). These "core" services are governed by a contract with strong privacy and security rules. Using your LBL identity, you can also use other Google services like Picasa, Blogger, and Search. The first time you use these services using your LBL identity, you receive a warning indicating that you are doing so. These additional services are covered by Google's general Privacy Policy and Terms. In addition, they are covered by a supplemental policy that clarifies that we (LBL) also may have access to data you place in these external applications.

The new privacy policy covers both sets of services but in different ways. Google's agreement with UC/LBL takes precedence over the change to the privacy terms. The agreement ensures the protection of LBL data and intellectual property and prohibits the sharing of our data with third parties (except under unique conditions). Because we have ads turned off, Google does not index gmail, docs, etc for the purposes of customizing advertising to you.

However, the new privacy policy does clarify something we have always understood to be the case - that Google may use data to customize services for you outside Google Apps. For example, if you have voluntarily logged in to Google+, you've noticed that Google brings your contacts from LBL Gmail into Google+ so that you can put them into circles more easily. Ditto for maps. Google doesn't share your contacts with others, or automatically add them to Google+, but they bring data over from your account for you to utilize. Likewise, as Google moves to customize its products based on your interests/search patterns etc, the new privacy policy permits them to use data across the services for the purpose of doing so (for example, using your google search to customize the front page of youtube to your interests).

As always, Google's privacy dashboard gives you the ability to see what Google knows about you and control many (but not all) privacy preferences.

Google's privacy policy does not permit Google employees to read your gmail or look at your browsing habits, and it does not permit them to share this identifiable with third parties. Further, the new policy makes even clearer that the intellectual property you put into Google services as a consumer remains yours in all circumstances.

If you have additional questions, we strongly recommend this blog post from google and the letter linked within it. http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2012/01/changing-our-privacy-policies-not-our.html

And our original privacy and security faq remains true and unimpacted by Google's change: lbl.gov/google click on privacy and security.

If you have questions, feel free to get in touch with itpolicy@lbl.gov

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