Google Privacy Policy: What does it all mean?

by GeekSquadUK on ‎03-01-2012 12:30 PM (21,117 Views)

If you’ve been using any of the free Google services over the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen more than a few messages about changes to their Privacy Policy that will come into effect on the first of March. So, what does this mean for you as a user? What are the most important changes to the privacy policies? What do you need to know?

 

Read on for my three step guide to the Google privacy policy changes!

 

  • Step 1: DON’T PANIC. It’s really not going to change that much. The main purpose is to have a “one policy fits all” approach, so you, as a user, can read one and know it’s not going to change over the many different Google products you likely use. Which, at the end of the day, makes it easier to understand!
  • Step 2: WATCH THIS VIDEO. I think Google have done a great job of explaining most of it themselves!
  • Step 3: READ THE SMALL PRINT.

 

Obviously step three is not the best way to spend a couple of hours, so we have trawled through it all and brought you the more important bits, what they mean and why you should pay attention to them! But, please remember, that if you are at all worried about what any company (not just Google) is doing with your sensitive information, always read their policies and never take someone else’s word for it! After all, yourpersonal information is your private information!

 

So, before I start explaining, here is a direct link to the new policy, in case you haven’t seen it yet: http://www.Google.com/policies/privacy/preview/

 

So, where to begin? Well, the first thing that all Internet users should be aware of (and many of you will be already) is “cookies” and no, not the type you have with a glass of milk!

 

Cookies

 

Cookies, or HTTP cookies, to give them their proper title, are used by a website to send information to the browser and vice-versa. Or, in English, it remembers things you tell certain websites and the replies you get from them!

 

So, Google for example, use cookies, to remember what language you like to use, or if you use iGoogle, or if you have filters on your search results, all things that make using the Google services a little quicker and easier. Again, if you’re at all worried, you can clear the cookies stored on your PC from your browser’s settings.

 

IP Addresses

 

As well as cookies, Google also keeps a record of your IP address. An IP address is basically an address for your computer; just like your house has its own number and post code, your computer has an IP address.

 

The main reason for this is so when you connect to the internet, certain websites and services use location-specific data to ensure you get the most relevant information. So, when you search for Take-Aways or Doctors’ surgeries you’re going to see the ones near you, not the ones in another part of the country!

 

Fortunately, your IP gives away very little information about you. If you were to Google your own IP, then you would see your Internet service provider (TalkTalk/Virgin/BT/SKY etc), your country, and the location of the nearest large town or city to you. So, nothing more than your post code, or anything that could tell you apart from Mr Bloggs that lives the other side of your city!

 

Advertising

 

For this bit, we need to take a step back from the Google we all see every day, that is Google.com the search engine and remember Google Inc. is the largest advertising company in the world.

 

Imagine yourself in their situation; you are looking for things that interest people, so you can show them adverts that might interest them and, therefore, make the user more likely to click on these adverts. Google also had a way of knowing what sort of things they searched for, using one of the world’s most popular search engines and so, things that more likely interest them, which enabled advertising to become a lot more personal than it once was.

 

So, back in March 2003, Google started using targeted advertising, and it is only doing what any company can and would do in the situation. (Facebook and many other websites do this too!)

 

But, you do have a choice. If you are not happy with Google anonymously keeping an eye on what you search for in order to show you specifically targeted adverts, go to https://www.google.com/history/, log into your account, then click “Remove Web History”. This will also pause your web history, so no more search history will be stored. So this means that searching for a florist for your wife won’t then mean you get adverts popping up with flowers, so your surprise will remain a secret until she gets them!

 

Also remember, that if you use Gmail, this is also anonymously scanned by Google AdSense and that you will see adverts relevant to the content of your message. Google likes to point out, so its only fair we do to, that this process is entirely automated and anonymous so no person will ever read your email or your search history.

 

Mobile.

 

With the rise of Android and Google mobile apps in general, we should take a moment to see how the privacy policy changes affect us, while on the move. All the topics covered so far, are just as relevant on your mobile device, as your home PC and in some aspects, more.

 

The main thing to remember here is that most mobile apps (again, not just Google ones) share your location by default; this is normally to the nearest cell mast but if you have GPS turned on, it can share your location as accurately as to a couple of meters.

 

Especially take care of this if you you use Google-Latitude, as your location automatically updates as long as the app is running.

 

Google Dashboard.

 

Finally, I am going to end on what is most likely your first view of the Google Dashboard.


If you are a Google account user, this is the best place to go to see what information Google has stored on you already and ways to clear anything you are not comfortable with them holding.

 

Some of it is very valuable information to have secured online in a safe place, like your Google contacts and android device history, which if you use android, is good, because if you were to ever have your device lost or stolen, you have a back up of all your contacts and a copy of your IMEI number to give to the police.

 

What to do if you’re not happy with anything.

 

Using the dashboard, you are able to clear most information that you have given to Google voluntarily – so this shouldn’t be an issue for the majority of people – but if you find anything available on Google about yourself that you’re not happy with, you can request Google to provide you with a copy of all information they hold on you and request its removal.

 

All this provided by Google, in the form of “Data Liberation”. For more information on this, you can visit http://www.dataliberation.org/

 

In conclusion

 

I believe Google themselves have done a great job in being as transparent as they possibly can, by creating the Google: Good To Know” and if you found this article interesting then it will definitely be worth looking at as they don’t just cover the topics surrounding the most recent privacy policy update, but almost everything Google/Internet related! I’d particularly like to recommend the section entitled “Stay safe online” which covers basic Internet security and gives great advice on keeping yourself secure!

 

So, there we have it! Like I have said, Don’t take my word for it, if you’re even a little unsure about anything private being stored by someone else, read the privacy policy that accompanies it.

 

– Agent M. O. Bowler
Precinct 1580 – Cardiff, UK.

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