On March 1, the terms and services that Google provides will change. I thought I would explain what these changes mean.
Here are the new Google policies: http://www.google.com/policies/
If you use Google for holding documents, mail, and calendar there is a shift coming that you may or may not enjoy. If you are logged into Google and you run a search on a given topic, the first search results may include your own personal files or emails now.
Google's terms are changing to link your information into your own personalized search engine. And while most people may think this is an invasion of privacy, it really isn't. It is only showing up for you because you are logged in. Others will not see your personalized results.
But Google does track your personal search history and some people are really frightened about what that means. So there are steps you can take to remove your history. This site seems to provide a good step-by-step process for removing your history or even activating the tool to help you remember your search history.
So why are people making a big deal about all this?
The deal is that now the search engine is going to be searching the content people have been posting in their accounts. People hold their own data very securely. Some people want to use Google to hold their mailbox in one area that is searchable and their files in another area that is searchable. But to mesh them together where Google can search all means that Google now has merged all your data into one searchable spot. And this is kind of frightening to some people who really want to know their data is secure.
A big deal in education:
Some districts have authorized Google Mail to be their student email system. But in CIPA rules, you can't allow outside school officers to data-mine private student data. When the terms go into effect, districts are effectively giving Google the ability to data mine student data because the new policy is putting the power of Google Search into data-mining student's files. So there is some scratching of the heads in districts about what to do about this. Google is a great tool but the CIPA policy needs to bend a bit to allow this to continue.
Can I opt out?
No. Google's policies and terms will apply to everyone. They don't give you an option to turn this off. The policies are their policies to make and they are setting this as the new policy for how their tools will work.