Google has updated their Gmail app to support “single sign-on,” so that being logged in to the Gmail app will also log you in to Google Maps, Google Drive, YouTube, and Chrome. This sounds convenient, but a closer look [via The Loop] at what’s happening might make some people reconsider.
It sounds great to not have to sign in to all those apps individually, sure. But why would Google do something that makes things better for users? Because it makes things even better for Google. As a Google user, you aren’t paying for things like Gmail or YouTube. Remember (say it with me), if you aren't paying for the product, you are the product.
Google’s bread and butter is scooping up all that data about little old you and your surfing habits and using that to sell ads to all those places. That’s why a couple of Google searches give you the same sidebar ads on every website for months.
On your mobile devices, all those things are separate, so if you saw an ad at the start of a YouTube video on your iPad, and researched it later on your phone or computer, Google has no way of tracking that so they can show advertisers which ads are effective. Or at least, they didn’t until this update.
I’ve updated the apps, but I don’t use YouTube on my phone that much so when I launched it, I was asked what I which account to use and managed to skip having to sign in at all. Here's what that looked like:
First launch of YouTube on iOS. Select another account.
Hooray! Use YouTube without a Google Account!
Successfully signed out!
As it happens, this is only a concern for those running iOS 7, which happens to be about 80-90%, depending who you ask. Since Google mentions that this works using background app refresh—one of the new “conveniences” of iOS 7—there’s a good chance a lot of people won’t notice the difference because they already have it enabled.
Right now I can’t find a way to “officially” opt out of this aside from the YouTube app, but I do have app refresh disabled and don’t use many Google apps, so I think I’m OK for now, but I’ll continue to review and if I find out differently, expect more info here on TMO.