Google Privacy

March 10, 2012 at 11:29 am | Posted in Economoney, Internet, Online services, Security, Web Apps | 2 Comments

Google’s new across-the-board privacy policy has made the policy more accessible but has also brought to light how they’re integrating information about you, gathered from its various services. For example, the YouTube videos you watch will affect Google search results. The activity of your Gmail and Google+ contacts (and yours with them) will show up in other services. If you’re into the social media scene, you may see this as a boon.

But if you’re really not interested in your life being a public record that’s shared indiscriminately with random contacts, there are a few things you can do. Google insists these changes are only internal changes, within their services. But the approach has concerned the EU and most of the US state Attorney Generals have signed a letter of concern.

One way of avoiding some of this integration is simply not being signed in to Google services while you use other products like YouTube, Search, Maps, Picasa, and so forth. If you use Gmail webmail or Blogger, that’s a little unavoidable. And Cookies will still tell Google who you are. You also loose features like saved and default maps. Another suggestion is to diversify key tools, using just the best of Google. For example, use Yahoo Groups rather than Google’s, WordPress rather than Blogger, or Firefox rather than Chrome (Chrome has an Incognito mode as an option). And I’ve heard some suggest we avoid Google products altogether. However, if you think you can avoid these issues by using other products, you’d be mistaken. Social media and targeted advertising are huge and growing, across the web. The key is where we wish to draw the line and that we have that choice. Some services don’t give you the choice.

The key to control this beast is Google Privacy Tools, a not much advertised access point into numerous settings. (note that if you have more than one Gmail (Google) account, you’ll have to do this for each)

I’ll let you do the exploring but Dashboard will give you a good idea of what Google knows about you. Privacy settings are on the right in blue. Alerts shows what has access to what, even including what Apps you have on your Android phone and what phones you check your email from.

If you like to keep your search results clean of “personalization”, see Search Personalization Opt-out. This is also where you can access your Web History many have recommended you opt out of. (I’m not sure what turns that on – mine was off) You’ll have to clear Google Cookies in your browser to effect the changes.

There’s much more to explore here. It’s not the most straightforward to manage but at least you have a portal for doing it.
Safe Surfing, but never assume privacy.


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  1. I feel like we’ve already lost the privacy fight. I don’t think kids growing up in this environment will expect it. In theory, governments could help but they are setting a terrible precedent with ACTA and such. Darn.


  2. Hi Arthur
    Well – It’s kind of like TV and radio of yore. Free to listen but you get ads. The free web is being paid for with ads but because of the trail of data Internet use can leave, the potential for targeted ads and thus more revenue is irresistible. Whole services like Facebook are built around gathering demographic info.

    if you want privacy, you can use secure email, browse through proxy services and stay away from social stuff. But that requires education and reduces some functionality.

    As records become increasingly connected, it becomes more advantageous for individuals – police and hospital records, for example – but it also means more people have access, reducing privacy.

    In the end, its all about education. Being careful what you click OK to, avoiding services that are information sink-holes, and staying out of bad neighborhoods. And occasionally, we have to pick the good fight to stand up for what’s right over what’s expedient.

    And then of course there’s the money. Lobbyists pushing for narrow interests and an uneducated government listening too much to money. There’s been a few laws of late that are really out of balance.


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