Youtube has recently been asking users to link their Google accounts with their Youtube accounts, sharing data and contacts. Harmless on the face of it, but if we take into account Google’s data collection and search personalization then the idea of linking your Google account to anything, even just your YouTube account, is a pretty big deal; Google is going to index (and influence) everything you share and view on YouTube and vice versa.
Looking at Google’s recent expansion into the realm of social networking (Google+) and the development of a Google brand web browser (Google Chrome), along with Google Talk (Chat) and Google News, it looks like the folks over at Google are entering into the entrepreneurial spirit, and expanding their interests and connections online.
It’s likely that Google won’t stop with YouTube. Google+ already allows users to showcase profiles from other social networks, a predictable next step would be to follow through with their current strategy and open up account linking with other social networking sites.
Google+ would do best to carefully approach the issue of account information sharing. If the mistakes of previous institutions are anything to go by, then it seems the issue of identity and privacy online in general is tricky to say the least. Take the recent uproar when Facebook implemented facial recognition software. Facebook’s software tagged any photo of a user with their name, making it easy to find and index. The only issue is that Facebook staff neglected to notify their users, leading to a percieved disregard for personal information and user privacy.
Our online identities have a tendency, for the most part, to be quite disparate from any sort of personal identification; a user posting on Reddit doesn’t expect his Facebook friends to be reading his posts, and it’s likely most 4chan users wish to remain “Anonymous”. However, given concern over Google+’s ‘real name’ identity policy, the prospect of users’ accounts (and real world personal information) being tied in to too many services might, like other perceived slights against user privacy, blow up in Google+’s face.