The update escaped the notice of, well, pretty much everyone until ProPublica published a report last Friday detailing the change.
The slippery privacy slope really began back in 2007 when Google acquired DoubleClick, an advertising network. At the time of the purchase, Google swore up and down that user privacy would be protected. And it was. Until this summer.
Prior to June of this year, DoubleClick’s database of Web-browsing records was kept apart from Google users’ data.
Now, however, personal information Google has collected from Gmail, YouTube and other Google accounts can be used by DoubleClick. Existing users were asked to opt-in this summer while all new accounts are opted-in by default.
Google told ProPublica the change was made because customers use its services differently now compared to when the acquisition was completed nine years ago.
“We updated our ads system, and the associated user controls, to match the way people use Google today: across many different devices,” Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville wrote in an e-mail to ProPublica.
She described the change as “100 percent optional,” adding that if “users do not opt-in to these changes, their Google experience will remain unchanged.”
“Google adheres to advertising industry privacy standards. To learn about these standards, including how you can opt out of personalized advertising from Google and other participating companies, visit our About Google Ads page,” Google said on its Settings page. “If you want to permanently opt out of the DoubleClick cookie, you can install the DoubleClick opt out extension.”