By Natalie Todd
A poll of more than 2,000 people by Google, in conjunction with YouGov, suggests that 47% of UK Google users are not aware of the changes. And, according to Big Brother Watch, only 12% have read the new agreement.
With loads of thoughts, opinions, technology jargon and lengthy policies floating around, we have highlighted the key things you need to know.
What are the changes?
Google’s business model has always relied on collecting browsing information from users, leading to selling ads targeted on individual behaviour.
The new privacy agreement means that activity on all of Google’s sites will be linked. Rather than separating user information between its 60+ services, Google will now pool all of that information, providing them with a more detailed profile of your interests. This means that data and web history, gathered when a user is logged in to a Google account, can be shared across all of their websites.
In their blog post announcing changes in January, Google said:
“We can make search better — figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink.”
How does this affect you?
Undoubtedly, these changes have caused a stir. The big concern is that there will be less privacy for users of the multitude of products that Google owns, especially as no-one is able to opt out of these changes.
You need to know that Google aren’t accessing any more data than they were before. And, if you aren’t logged in to a Google service, nothing can be attributed to you.
The company have suggested that these changes are also in aid of simplifying privacy settings and making the array of policies easier to understand. In theory, with more information, Google will be able to provide a better user service – with increased accuracy in search results, more interesting and tailored advertisements, and features that work across multiple sites.
An example of how this could work: if you type ‘recipes’ into Google Search, the next time you go onto YouTube, cookery videos might be suggested to you. Or if you watch a video by a certain music artist, tickets for a tour might be advertised to you on your Gmail account.
Some people have argued that Google is taking away what they feel is the very essence of the internet – discovery – by altering each web page for the user.
What products are Google-owned?
- Anything with “Google” in the name – whether Google Search, Maps, Chrome etc.
- Gmail – Google’s own e-mail platform
- YouTube – the biggest video site, which they purchased in 2006
- Picasa – online photo sharing, acquired in 2004
- Blogger – blog writing and following site
- FeedBurner – tool for managing RSS feeds
- Orkut – social networking site particularly popular in India and Brazil
- Android – the popular smartphone operating system
How do I stop it affecting me?
There are several ways to avoid this.
1. Don’t sign in!
Many Google services don’t require a log in. Although, like many websites, Google will still store anonymous data.
2. Clear your history
This is very simple: Sign in to your account, go to www.google.com/historyand select “Remove all Web History.” The same option is available on YouTube. This doesn’t mean your searches won’t be stored, they just won’t be attributed to your account.
3. Wipe your browsing history on Google Chrome
If you use Chrome as your browser, click on the “wrench” icon, Select “Tools,” then “Clear browsing data,” and you can choose the time period you want to delete.
4. Gmail Chat “off the record”
Start all of your conversations “off the record,” using the Actions icon. Then they won’t be saved in your history, or the history of the person who you’re talking to.
Visit the “Ads Preferences Page” where you can opt out of personalized advertisements.
6. Google Dashboard
On the dashboard you can view a summary of information related to your account, and delete things you don’t like.
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