The new policy, which goes into effect March 1, allows Google to collect information about individuals when they sign into their Google accounts; enter search terms; or use an Android mobile phone, as users are typically logged into their Google accounts continuously on Android phones. It also stores cookies on users' computers to draw on information about which Web sites they visited and what locations they searched for on Google Maps.
The new policy will exclude Google Books, Google Wallet and Google Chrome. It has come under some criticism from privacy advocates, and eight members of Congress sent an open letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking for more details about the changes.
Google emphasized that the company is not collecting any more information about consumers than it has done in the past, but that it is now able to combine the data to get a more comprehensive picture of the user.
“You can bring in more data from across the different Web experiences so you can build out that user persona more robustly,” said Alex Funk, senior manager of paid media services at Covario, a search engine marketing agency. “As far as marketers go, this is a win.“Before, you could build a campaign specific to YouTube or to the Google display network, but you were really working within the dataset within that one platform,” Funk said. “Now, if someone is searching for things online — maybe they're looking at pictures [or] having a conversation on Google Plus — you can better understand what types of products or services they're looking for.”
Google offered an example in its statement: When a user searches for a term like “jaguar,” the company will be better able to determine if they were looking for the animal or luxury car.