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"Don't Be Evil" - A primer for Google+ Terms of Service
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"Don't Be Evil" - A primer for Google+ Terms of Service


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Published in: Technology, Business
  • P.S. Here's the link to my primer as it didn't stick in the hyperlink:
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  • Hi Ian
    Thanks for your comprehensive policy primer on Google+. I notice similar points of reference with other student’s primers on social platforms in regards to content ownership and their right to reproduce or use user content without permission. This also seems the case for Facebook and is something that I mention in my primer on Facebook’s Pages Terms.
    What I also took from your primer was Google’s ability and right to collect data information from your usage of their services without your knowledge or specific consent. The Privacy Rights Commission says that this information gathered via cookies and electronic tracking, or fingerprinting, is actually public (Privacy Rights Commission,2012). The troubling issue I have with this is that no matter how much this may sound like surveillance (Lyon, 2002) and an infringement on one’s privacy, social platform owners are able to freely use this information to build profiles around their users and then sell this information to advertisers.
    What’s more is that Goettke (2007, p. 2) explains how “the responsibility of privacy protection often falls solely on the individual” and not the social platform. Although users have the ability to alter their personal privacy settings, users at large seem to have an unconcerned or pragmatic attitude towards their online privacy. Perhaps it comes down to a lack of education and understanding but Goettke (2007) believes that this attitude may be because users at large don’t quite realise just how large a number of people can access this personal data information and the implications associated with this access. I think it should be up to the social media owners to make this information clearer and easier to access so users can make more informed decisions. As Goettke (2007, p. 2) states, it will be a “gradual development of common sense” to work out what is and isn’t appropriate for sharing and controlling of privacy settings.

    Goettke, R., & Christiana, J. (2007). Privacy and Online Social Networking Websites. Computer Science 199r: Special Topics in Computer Science Computation and Society: Privacy and Technology. Accessed from
    Lyon, D. (2002) 'Everyday Surveillance: Personal Data and Social Classification', Information, Communication, and Society, 5(1). Accessed from
    Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. (2012). Fact Sheet 18: Online Privacy: Using the Internet Safely Accessed from
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  • @vcalle02

    I certainly agree with your comments on data aggregation in terms of Google. The vast amounts of data available in search histories can be very concerning, especially recalling Barbaro & Zeller’s article on AOL search data identification (2006). However, in the same article, the writers mention that “while these searches can tell [...] much about the person who typed them, they can also prove highly misleading” (Barbaro & Zeller, 2006). Looking over my own search history, I can pick plenty of search queries that have no bearing on my personal circumstances or identity.
    Google certainly doesn’t have a spotless record when it comes to privacy and identity protection though. The issues surrounding the failed Google Buzz do show that Google has run into serious breaches (most likely unintended) in the past. Wood (2011) mentions how Google Buzz had several flaws, in particular the fact that the service publicly displayed a users email contacts without authorisation. Eventually these kinds of privacy flaws led to resounding criticisms from various privacy commissioners and groups (Nowak, 2010; Paul, 2010), as well as a number of federal law suits and inquiries (Kang, 2010).
    Given the central issue of the Google Buzz fiasco was data aggregation and automated information display, now that Google has an independent auditing system it must comply with every 2 years for a twenty year period (Ovadia, 2011), it would be highly unlikely that such data aggregation would be a serious issue with new services such as Google+. I do agree that it is a concern though, especially for users who have multiple devices locked in to Google services as you mention (Calleja, 2012). The concern is clearly amplified in the case of Google, considering the vast array of services they provide besides just a social network and a search engine, however, I tend to be much more concerned with services such as Facebook, who actively make use of user information and content with barely any scope for restraint like Google attempts to provide.
    I very much appreciate your comment. Especially considering your own case study of Google as a whole, it was very informed and raises appropriate issues that my case study of Google+ did not particularly have the space to cover.

    Barbaro, M., & Zeller, T. (2006, August 9th). A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749. New York Times. Retrieved from
    Calleja, V. (2012). Re: “Don’t Be Evil” – A primer for Google+ Terms of Service [comment]. Retrieved from
    Kang, C. (2010, February 17). Privacy advocates file FTC complaint on Google Buzz. The Washington Post online. Retrieved from
    Nowak, P. (2010, February 17). Privacy watchdog rebukes Google for Buzz. CBC News online. Retrieved from
    Ovadia, S. (2011). An Early Introduction to the Google+ Social Networking Project. Behavioural & Social Sciences Librarian, 30(4). Doi: 10.1080/01639269.2011.622258
    Paul, R. (2010, February 17). EPIC fail: Google faces FTC complaint over Buzz privacy. Arstechnica. Retrieved from
    Wood, M. (2010, February 10). Google Buzz: Privacy nightmare. CNET News. Retrieved from
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  • Hi Ian,

    Well done on producing a great presentation.

    Overall the format worked well, the content seemed to flow very nicely in a conversational manner which was easy for me to read. The use of different size fonts is creative and worked well to emphasise certain words and points.

    User privacy is one of Google’s biggest concerns, in fact when asked to comment on privacy issues, Google employees most frequently respond with some variation on “privacy is important” (Hoofnagle, 2009). It was good to see that you outlined how they collect information and how they use it.

    I have noticed that on Facebook, Google + and Spotify, there is information you ‘give them’ as you quote like registration information such as name, gender, age etc. and then information you choose to share with them which usually comes in conjunction to your privacy settings and how you interact with the service.

    It was very interesting to see the similarities between the data usage policy of Facebook and Google Plus. Both services state that “you still retain ownership of any Intellectual Property rights over content that is yours” (Google Terms of Service, 2012)

    But as Facebook and Google + also state, you give them permission to use this content by granting them “a non- exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook” (Facebook Statement of Rights and responsibilities, 2012)

    You and I also concluded our presentations in a similar manner, highlighting the issue of user vigilance and user responsibility and the fact that Internet safely is essential to maintaining your privacy online”( Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, 2008). As you state “ you should always be aware of your own responsibilities as to how you use their service” or as I put it “Understand the responsibly you have over your own content, actions, behavior and your privacy settings and be aware of the terms of service so as to not violate them”.
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  • The terms and policies for Google+ are the ones specified on the Google policy pages which relate to all of Google’s services including Picasa, Blogger, Gmail and YouTube (there are a select few services such as Google Books, Wallet and Chrome that have separate and specific notices regarding privacy). Services such as Google and hence Google+, and Twitter claim to not share personal or personally identifying information but when sharing vast arrays of aggregated data, how do they delineate how much information is required before it becomes personally identifying? The sheer volume of data could profile, and in some respects act as a digital footprint leading back to the user. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (2012) show that even the information that is collected about our devices, a “device fingerprint” can be unique or close to. Name and age are just some of the more overt ways of identifying someone. Google and Twitter both also release information to third parties under the caveat of abiding by their respective terms and policies but how do they monitor this? Newman (2012) reminds us that users are not the customers; they are part of the product being sold to advertisers. Whilst some people do have the choice of not using some, any, or all of Google’s services, the ubiquitous nature of the Search service makes it difficult to avoid; for people with Android devices (47% total market share – Kim, 2012) locked into contracts it becomes near impossible (within the term of the contract) or at the expense of paying out the contract. Google+ users who have an Android device, could have far more data revealed about themselves than they could anticipate and with unknown consequences.

    Your primer, although specifically relating to Google+, reveals very similar outcomes to mine ( – as would be expected, given Google’s amalgamation of policies in March this year. I found the information regarding Hangout interesting, particularly with regard to users having to control content of a ‘Hangout’ they initiate. Thanks for the information!

    Kim, R. (2012, January 9) iPhone breathing down neck of Android in US. Gigaom.

    Newman, N. (2012, March 1) Solving the Google Privacy Problem Will Largely Solve the Google Antitrust Problem. Huffington Post. Retrieved 23/8/2012 from: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. (2012, July). Privacy and the Internet: Travelling in Cyberspace Safely. Author.
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  • 1. "Dont Be Evil" rvice og le+ Terms of SeA primer for Go (Code of Conduct, n.d.)
  • 2. uctUser Content and Cond
  • 3. First off:
  • 4. (Google Terms of Service, 2012)
  • 5. (Google Terms of Service, 2012)
  • 6. Is nothing...
  • 7. · Illegal activities· Transmission of viruses (and other malicious programs)· Discrimination and bullying· Distribution of personal information of others· Account hijacking, impersonation and spam· Sexually explicit material· Marketing regulated or prohibited products & services (User Content and Conduct Policy, n.d.)
  • 8. (Google Terms of Service, 2012)
  • 9. Whilst you still retain ownership of any IntellectualProperty rights over content that is yours, when youpublish your content via Google+, you grant Googlea certain licence to use that content. (Google Terms of Service, 2012)
  • 10. This licence allowsGoogle to store,modify and/orrepublish your contentthrough any of theirservices. (Google Terms of Service, 2012)
  • 11. This license continues even after you havestopped using their services. (Google Terms of Service, 2012)
  • 12. Dont put it on Google+
  • 13. if you post contentto Google+ which iscopyright protectedmaterial, and you do not have the necessary permissions to use it
  • 14. (Google Terms of Service, 2012)
  • 15. Google refers to the U.S. Digital Millenium Copyright Act (Google Terms of Service, 2012)
  • 16. Dont put it on Google+
  • 17. Privacy
  • 18. · Information you give them· Information they get from your use of their services (Privacy Policy, 2012)
  • 19. Information you givethem includesanything you supplywhen creating anaccount or profile For example: name, age, gender, email, phone number, credit card (Privacy Policy, 2012)
  • 20. Information given to Google when creating anaccount, is now used for consolidating profiles. This would mean that to use Google+, you have to create a profile based on actual Thus preventing users from information about misrepresenting themselves yourself (which is against Googles TOS anyway) (Watchdogs Criticize New Google Privacy Policy, 2012)
  • 21. The device/platformyou are using, Your location at time of useAny outsidedestinations you havecome from/are going tofrom Google (Privacy Policy, 2012)
  • 22. If you happen to call anumber provided by aGoogle service (Privacy Policy, 2012)
  • 23. However...
  • 24. ● They are legally required to do so● Your account is managed by an administrator who is not you● They need to externally process data (in which case Googles policy is still in effect)● You give them consent (Privacy Policy, 2012)
  • 25. aside from anylegal requirementsfor the release ofinformation, the consent of a user for the release of information is essential, otherwise Google may not retrieve or use personal information
  • 26. After it became knownThis is due, in part, that Google was pullingto an incident in a data from Gmailprevious social accounts without usernetwork attempt by consent, Google wasGoogle called Google subjected toBuzz, launched in independent audits2010. every 2 years for the next 20 years, and a condition that they require consent before sharing user information (Ovadia, 2011)
  • 27. ntsmay be used however Google wa (Privacy Policy, 2012)
  • 28. rmsFurther Goo gle+ Specific Te
  • 29. a video chat service(Google+ Hangouts On Air - additional terms, n.d.)
  • 30. In practice, thismeans that ifanybody is providingcontent in a Hangoutthat goes against anyof the Terms ofService... (Google+ Hangouts On Air - additional terms, n.d.)
  • 31. You must be over the legal age ofmajority in the country you live in,or over 18 (whichever is higher) tomake a Page you must also be the owner, or an agent of the owner of whoever or whatever the Page is for (Services for Verified Google+ Page Owner - additional terms, n.d.)
  • 32. (Google+ Pages Contest and Promotion Policies, n.d.)
  • 33. You may have a link to apromotion on your Page, but it be run at an outside site(Google+ Pages Contest and Promotion Policies, n.d.)
  • 34. Finally...
  • 35. Google may changeany of the Terms orpolicies related toGoogle+ at anytime, however they may give you notice before they do so (Google Terms of Service, 2012)
  • 36. If any changes are significant enough to warrantnoticing users, Google will send or post a notice through one or more of their services if the changes are NOT significant... (Google Terms of Service, 2012)
  • 37. Whilst Google does try tobe transparent regardingits use of your data, andthe types of content and conduct it allows
  • 38. You should alwaysbe aware of as well as your ownGoogles responsibilities as toresponsibilities in how you may useregards to your use their servicesof its services,
  • 39. "Dont be Evil" (Code of Conduct, n.d.)
  • 40. ReferencesCode of Conduct. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://investor. Terms of Service. (2012). Retrieved from http: // au/intl/en/policies/terms/regional.htmlGoogle+ Hangouts On Air – additional terms. (n.d.). Retrieved from com/+/policy/hangoutsonair.html
  • 41. ont. References cGoogle+ Pages Contest and Promotion Policies. (n.d.). Retrieved from com/+/policy/pagescontestpolicy.htmlOvadia, S. (2011). An Early Introduction to the Google+ Social Networking Project. Behavioural & Social Sciences Librarian, 30(4). doi: 10.1080/01639269. 2011.622258Privacy Policy. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.
  • 42. ont. References cServices for Verified Google+ Page Owner – Additional Terms. (n.d.). Retrieved from com/+/policy/pages-services.htmlWatchdogs Criticize New Google Privacy Policy. (2012). Information Management Journal, 46(3). Retrieved from au/docview/1019286409/1391422C8075FA33F06/35? accountid=10382
  • 43. ont. References cUser Content and Conduct Policy. (n.d.). Retrieved from