We take privacy pretty seriously in the library world. We believe in your right to freely access information, online and in print. And we're not going to share your list of checked out books, DVDs, and CDs. Don't believe me? Take a little time to read the Privacy & Google Freedom to Read Statement or the Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records on our Policies page. See? We're watching out for you.
So how is this unified policy different than the ones that Google had in place before? Well, your search history used to be separate from Google's growing product list. Now their many services will get to peek at your web history. Seems like this isn't too bad, right? I mean, that will hopefully mean that Google will be able to better target the results you want, the services you might need, and even target the advertising towards your searches. But keep in mind that this could also reveal sensitive information about you, including information about your location, age, sexual orientation, religion, or health concerns. Information gathered and stored by Google can also be turned over to government agencies and courts - this isn't new, but the unified policy does mean that your searches can be saved indefinitely.
There are many issues to weigh here. I think we tend to take our online privacy for granted - we post our daily doings on Facebook and Twitter and connect to our locations. People can tell when we're out of the house, running errands, or planning trips. This isn't to sound paranoid. We just need to be aware of the information we're putting out about ourselves. And I also have to say I love using Google Docs, Analytics, and a variety of other products. I don't want to drop the search engine, but I want to have some control over my online privacy.
If you're feeling like you'd like to learn more about protecting your privacy in regards to the new Google policy, check out Electronic Frontier Foundation's guide to removing your Google search history - before March 1st! You might also want to read their older, but still relevant, article with six tips to protect your search privacy.