Google’s sneaky new privacy change affects 85% of iPhone users—but most won’t have noticed


“What Google really wants is for everybody to be signed in to their Google accounts all the time,” a Google insider told me in passing last month.

This change affects only Apple users who have upgraded to iOS 7, the latest version—but that’s 85% of iOS devices. They no longer have the ability to remain anonymous as they watch videos on YouTube or navigate their cities using Google Maps.

“Don’t be evil” indeed.

  • MichaelQ

    With Unversal Analytics (which left Beta this week), it just means a Search you started on your phone, can be attributed to a sale made later on your PC.

    A little creepy yes, but ultimately no big deal.

    Google deserves a bit of credit for its push on Visible Impression Counts which no one else in the industry wanted.

    If you don’t like it, sign out. Or don’t watch YouTube videos. Your fav YouTube channel is probably having its meal paid for by Google and it’s Ads while you get it for free.

    • matthewmaurice

      Exactly. I’m no fan of Google, but I don’t see this as “evil.”

      “What Google really wants is for everybody to be signed in to their Google accounts all the time,” just further reinforces that you’re not Google’s customer, you’re their product.

    • dreyfus2

      Well, “free” is not an argument, if there is no paid option.

      Tracking people to this extent and without it being 100% obvious is not just “evil” or creepy, it is downright illegal in countries where data minimization is a central requirement in data privacy laws (such as most of Europe). Collecting data in excess of what is absolutely essential to perform a service (and Universal Analytics are definitely neither required to deliver search results or play video) is simply a no-go and only at all possible on an opt-in basis (and performing a search or watching a movie does certainly not qualify as an opt-in to these practises).

    • Well, now isn’t that just novel. “Don’t like it? Don’t use it.” Hrmm…seems easy enough but, MichaelQ, I think some folks just like complaining.

      It astounds me how entitled people feel when it comes to a service costing millions upon millions to maintain that is given to them for free.

      • Moeskido

        More transparency would be better. Don’t merely implement something like this without overtly informing people about how to opt out of it. Better yet, ask more clearly if they wish to opt in first.

        • Sooooo…you mean publicly posting about the change isn’t enough?

          “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” – Steve Jobs

          • Moeskido

            Oh, right. Because the immense popularity of corporate blogs means most people will be well-informed about the choices available when using corporate services. Especially where something like the exquisite UI of a Gmail preferences pane is concerned.

            That’s just more RTFM nerd-snobbery. Apple is a bit better at informing consumers about issues like this.

          • Right…kind of like Apple publicly informing everyone they changed the return policy? Oh wait, it was a surprise outed by a blog.


            No snobbery. You and I both know every tech blog, especially haters, will pick up on this and push it mainstream.

            Apart from pushing a window in the face of their users [WHICH HAPPENS NOW!!], how else would you notify everyone?

          • Moeskido

            And again, how many consumers read tech blogs? Your use-case far from universal, and your community of solipsist tech enthusiasts is nowhere near representative of the population as a whole.

            By the time the average consumer hears about issues like this, it’ll have been distorted and misreported by some twinkie on their local news station. Which works fine for Google.

          • Sure, it isn’t going to hit like a Times article, etc but how ludicrous is it to expect them to publish all updates in such a way?

            Also, don’t ignore the last part of my post. Open a Google app [listed in the blog post] and you will see a modal prompt you to sign in.

            How sleazy of them to inform users!

          • I’ll have to check into this. I’m logged in to the Google+ app on my iPad 1 (iOS 5.1), and I didn’t get any prompt recently to log in again if I wanted to agree to any changes, nor any dialog telling me of changes. Do we only get the change if we are in an iOS higher than 5.1 (i.e. an update to the app for 7.x users?)

          • You were signed into G+ before. The new apps with the single sign-on are: “including Maps, Drive, YouTube and Chrome”

            Here are two screenshots showing it after opening my Google apps, in this case YouTube and Gmail.



          • I haven’t gotten anything like that. Must be for the iOS 7 apps.

            I don’t mind the single log in and all. The Apple ID is similar. I do appreciate pop up notices when terms of service and such change, however, because even as a techie I’m likely to miss such things in the tech press or corporate blogs. I like to at least pretend I’m informed before I click the “I agree” button. 🙂

          • Yep, I agree. I prefer them as well. I didn’t see anything about TOS changes just the modal from above there.

  • I like Apple’s maps ) they’re good… Don’t need Google. And I don’t mind if they know that I’m using my Google Account

  • where is the evil in this? Can you access any of the Apple services without being signed in?

    • Kriztyan

      It’s deceptive, because you don’t even realize that you are signed in. That is were the evil comes from. You are not aware and you can not turn it off. With Apple, you are asked to sign in or not use it. I would say a bit of a deference between both methods. One seems transparent, the other seems cloaked and deceitful.

      • Hehe. You do realize people using Google products would be more annoyed to have to sign into every Google app they use, right?

        I just can’t shake the feeling Apple doing this would trigger any of this vitriol. You’d applaud them making it easier to go between apps.

        And, no, Apple does not ask you to sign into every app they release. They will prompt you, in some apps, if there isn’t a passcode on your device. I just tried it on about 6 apps I have never opened [Maps, iTunes Store, etc, etc].

        • Moeskido

          Apple isn’t selling my data.

          • Hehe…keep believing that.

          • links?

          • Apple has made it clear they don’t. You have any proof they do? No.

          • I didn’t say they did share. I’m simply saying stay tuned…tides are changing in iAd land.

  • So, just don’t use Google apps,

  • This is why I have a Google account full of bogus info. I use it everywhere.

  • I noticed this recently. I’m thinking of deleting my Google account now. This is too much. Evil is their stock-in-trade.