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Google auto-links YouTube, Google accounts

The expanding eyeball

As part of its ongoing effort to track everything you do on the web, Google is now forcing those who sign up for YouTube accounts to embrace a Google account as well.

"Signing up for YouTube means signing up for a Google Account that gives you access to YouTube, as well as other Google services such as iGoogle, Reader, and Docs," YouTube software engineer James Phillips wrote on The YouTube Blog.

And if you already have a YouTube account that doesn't link to a Google sign-in, the Mountain View Chocolate Factory will do its best to nudge you in that direction. "Some of the new features we roll out down the road may require a Google Account. In these cases, we'll be there to help you link your YouTube Account to a Google Account if you want to check the features out."

Naturally, Google bills all this as a boon for YouTubers. "So why are we doing this? We feel that by jointly connecting accounts, you can take greater advantage of our services both on YouTube and on Google, especially as we start to roll out new features in the future that will be powered by Google technology," Phillips writes.

Yes, many will welcome the extra convenience, and it appears that Google is planning some sort of content cross-pollination. In response to the news, Cnet blogger Matt Asay has cried out "Dominate me, Google. Please."

But this also gives Google the power to readily track your web behavior across both its own services and the world's most popular video sharing site, which it acquired in early 2007. And let's not forget that its own services include search and Gmail. Google's ultimate aim is to understand as much about your online habits as possible and then target ads accordingly.

Google bills this as a boon too. In the end, it likes to say, you'll see "more interesting" ads. But it also ties more stored data directly to a person. Yes, users are free to use Google and YouTube without an account. But they can only do so much. And they may not realize the enormity of the data Google collects.

The issue isn't the linking of accounts per se. It's the breadth of the, yes, personal data stored by a single (public) company. Google has yet to respond to our request for comment on it latest info-grab. It doesn't see this sort of thing as anything more than a helping hand - and good business.

But someday it will be. ®

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