There are ways to opt out of allowing Google to use this data, and I don't think I am going to relinquish my use of Gmail anytime soon. But it does raise some questions about how much privacy we are willing to let go of so companies like Google can make our Web experience more personalized.
Certainly the EU and the U.S. Congress are weighing in. Earlier this month the European Union's data protection authorities released a letter asking Google to delay the their new policy until they had verified that it does not break the block EU data protection allows. Google responded that it had briefed data protection agencies beforehand and had heard of no substantial concerns. Today, France's CNIL (Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertes) has stated that the policy appears to violate EU data protection laws, and has reiterated the earlier request to delay the policy.
In the U.S. legislation that would have potentially stopped the efforts of Web companies to collect consumer fell short of doing so. After years of negotiation, a set of privacy guidelines were unveiled on February 23 that urged Web companies to install "do not track" technology on browsers but fell short of requiring it. The guidelines urge for more transparency and more user-control over their personal data, and a number of companies have agreed to follow these voluntary guidelines.
Here are some resources to scan if you are interested in getting more information.
New York Time's Bits Blog on Google
What do you think? Do we have a responsibility to be an informed consumer in how we use the web, or do you think Web companies should go further in making their privacy policies more transparent? Or, should there be more legal limits on how companies can store and use our personal data?