Google has the uncontested position as the No 1 search engine in the world. The non-participation of Google in the recent blackout protest over the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act apparently was due to its sensitivity and secondly the awareness of Google’s place in the dissemination of information. It is inconceivable what it would be like, not to have Google search engine for a couple of hours. Most people will agree, the loss will be unimaginable.

Now with Google’s recent change in its policy rules, on the March 1, 2012, not a lot is known to the average user. The important issue here is the privacy rules only applies to Google and Google related products which includes Gmail, Google+, You Tube and all Google products. An easier understanding of the Google privacy rules; is that there has been a consolidation of all Google’s policies. Google and its products have been put within the range of 60 policies, which means a merge of all policies into one generic policy thereby eliminating different policies for different Google products on March 1st 2012 was precisely what has been done by the recent Google privacy rules.

The question that may arise, can one opt out of the Google privacy rules? The simplistic answer here is it depends on a couple of factors. If like me you have a Gmail account you automatically opt in because the use of its product Gmail, inadvertently means all users of Gmail account are bound by its terms and conditions which includes Google’s recent privacy rules. On the other hand, the question raised is what if one doesn’t have a Gmail account and probably does not use Google as a search engine, will the person still be bound by the recent Google’s recent privacy rules. The answer can only be provided by the person, because the use of YouTube which is a product of Google makes the user bound by Google’s recent privacy rules. This means it will be difficult to evade the use of Google or Google related products in an information world.

Although the European Union reacted, as soon as the changes were made on March 1st 2012, by its statement that the new privacy rules were illegal. The BBC supported the European Union’s assertion on its illegality, by expressing its reservations on Google privacy changes which BBC said were ‘in breach of EU Law ‘ According to Viviane Reding in a recent interview with the BBC on the 1st March  2012, she expressly stated that the ‘ transparency rules have not been applied ‘  However, Google was quick to address all concerns raised by the public by Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, who went on to re-confirm that Google’s privacy principles were as strong as ever.

On the face of it, the recent privacy rules mean businesses enjoy all the benefits advertising can give, such as enhanced product awareness and maximum global reach. Not only has Google presented itself as a great platform to showcase products to the world; it has also created in some ways an easier avenue for consumers to make a comparison and informed choice when contemplating the use of products. From a commercial perspective, the recent Google privacy rules make excellent uniformity and compliance goals achievable. Mainly because the consolidation of all Google and Google related products compliant with its own policies and eventually acceptable universally will be easily understandable.

Although some will argue here, that Google is in some ways is delving into marketing as opposed to its strict known area Information.

As an Online dispute resolution (ODR) advocate, the Google’s privacy policy makes for good compliance sense. Here users and ODR practitioners are both aware of their terms and conditions of engagement. Often, the use of Google and Google related products will definitely feature in the course of dispute resolution, unless a user expressly states otherwise, which I envisage will hardly be the case. Here an evaluation of the impact of pros and cons on the use of ODR will have to be determined if it is remotely seen to be disadvantageous.

With the use of online platform for various activities from banking to shopping, do you think the recent Google privacy policy has created (as some do), a level playing field for consumers and businesses alike ?