Who the heck reads privacy policies or terms of service? I know I don't. Even for me, a journalist-in-training who at least has some knowledge of how to navigate the complex jargon contained within said policies, they remain a torture for my short attention span.
Google especially is something I take for granted. When I'm in the middle of writing I'm not sure I care about how some company makes money off of my keystrokes, I just want to pull up receipts for an article I'm doing and leave.
The most concerning thing I found? Google's information it collects on you is no longer anonymous. And according to Propublica, it's been that way since last year.
"Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct," explained the same Propublica article. Around that time in my college lectures, I was still learning about how, generally, no names were to be associated with the data gained about me from my searches. Until I saw a Tumblr post this morning freaking out about this (which linked me to this article), I had absolutely no idea that Google could put a picture together of who I was.
According to the same Tumblr post, Google also owns what you write and create on its platforms. From my experience, Tumblr is known to be a little paranoid, but as somebody who has half of all her writing saved on Google Docs, this was... concerning to me, to say the least. I did some more digging in Google's terms of service to figure out if Google really owned what you made on Docs.
The answer? No, technically, but it can use what you store there quite freely.
Google's terms of service states that "some of our services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours."
That means, as it is, you technically own whatever content you save on your Docs, Drive, etc.. Google will not say that it owns what you create, so you're free to distribute and edit it as you please.
That said, Google later amends that "when you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our services, and to develop new ones."
This paragraph is a lot to wade through, but it means that Google and its associates can, first and foremost, see what you make at any time. Even if you don't share it with anyone, your work is never exactly private. Secondly, Google and its associates can use your content as they see fit to advertise its services. If you're a visual content creator, this means that you're essentially doing free advertising work for a giant corporation (Google can modify stored content to fit its needs). Third, simply because your content is hosted using Google, Google is free to make it publicly available at the drop of a hat.
That little "share" button on Docs and Drive gives only an illusion of control and privacy. Simply by using Google's services, you're consenting to, among other things, your content being made available to anyone if the company can say that doing so could promote Google's services.
The morality of both of these issues -- attaching names to information and specific distribution rights -- remain subject to the opinions of the individual consumer. What doesn't remain so is being informed about how exactly your content and your data is being used.
I know I'll definitely be checking out my other social media's privacy policies after writing this.