Google’s new Privacy Policy – good or bad?


Last week Google announced its revised Privacy Policy which subsequently caused quite a stir in technical circles. The new policy will not take effect until 1st March 2012 so, if you are not happy with the revised blueprint you still have a full month to seek out and organize alternative services.

First off I should point out that these are my personal observations based on information published by Google, if you want make a first hand assessment yourself you should go to Google.com/policies, where you will find links to the revised Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

So what has changed? In all honesty, not a lot. One of the most contentious issues has been the proposed sharing of more information among the various Google services. But that is actually nothing new, it was already allowed under the current terms and Google is merely stating its intent to start taking advantage of the policy. It seems to me that the whole thing is more in line with a consolidation than actually changing anything. Google has taken its more than 60 individual policies and combined them into one single privacy policy (with the exceptions of Chrome/Chrome OS, Books and Wallet).

Most Google services include options which can be utilized to limit the amount of information gathered, but it annoys me no end that data collection is enabled throughout by default and users actually need to opt-out. Obviously Google is working on the premise that most users tend to leave options/settings at default and the vast majority would not elect to allow more data collection than the absolute minimum – I cannot disagree.

If you are a prolific Google user here are some of the services and methods for minimizing data collection:

Advertising: Non-personally identifiable information is shared between Google services and its ad networks by default. You can opt-out of ad personalization at the Google Ads preferences page. NOTE: Personally identifiable information will not be shared with Google ad networks unless you actually choose to opt-in.


Web History: By default Google tracks search terms and items you click on when using Google services. You can opt-out on the Web History Page.

Search Personalization: Google customizes search results based on what you click and search for. This takes place regardless of whether you are signed into a Google account or not. In order to prevent this you will need to “Turn off search history personalization“.

Google Chat: Google maintains records of your conversations by default. To prevent this you need to go “Off the record” and your chat sessions will subsequently no longer be logged.

Streetview: Google has heeded user requests and will blur pictures which help identify you, your family members, your home or your vehicle. Simply locate the offending image on Google Streetview and click “Report a Problem”.

To sum up: If you’ve had no issues with Google’s privacy Policy in the past, I can see nothing in the revised policy which should cause any concerns. Conversely, if you’ve previously steered clear of Google’s services because of privacy issues, I can see nothing which would change your mind.


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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

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