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Google Revamps Privacy Policies & Terms of Service

A new Google privacy policy announced covers the majority of Google products and explains what information the company collect, and how they use it, in a much “more readable way,” Alma Whitten, Director of Privacy, Product and Engineering states.

Google Rolls Out New Lighter Privacy Policy

Since 2010, Google has created more than 70 different privacy settings pages to cover all of these services. After this reorganization, which will happen March 1, Google will compile 60 of these privacy pages into one comprehensive one. As, “Regulators globally have been calling for shorter, simpler privacy policies–and having one policy covering many different products is now fairly standard across the web,” according to the blog.

Google will notify users starting today, including via email and a notice on its homepage.

“The main change is for users with Google Accounts. Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience,” said Whitten.

In other words, the privacy page makes it clear that your social data from Google+ and Gmail will be shared with the search engine. And so it goes with every Google product and service. Or, as Google puts it, w’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

She writes, “Second, the Google Terms of Service–terms you agree to when you use our products. As with our privacy policies, we’ve rewritten them so they’re easier to read. We’ve also cut down the total number, so many of our products are now covered by our new main Google Terms of Service. Visit the Google Terms of Service page to find the revised terms.”

Whitten notes, most importantly, the “privacy policies and controls you’ve over your website data will not change.” Just as it was before, your website’s data is governed by the data sharing settings, which you control directly. You can still choose how much, if any, of your website’s data to share with Google to help us improve our products, provide anonymous, aggregate statistics, or make enhanced features like Conversion Optimizer available to you. Your website data will not be used for purposes other than those that you specify in your settings, which you may change at any time, explains Paul Muret, Director of Engineering, Google Analytics.

In the blog post, Whitten notes:

  • Data Liberation – if you want to take your information elsewhere you can download it and do so.
  • Google says they don’t sell your personal information to third parties without your consent.
  • Google says they would give your information away under “limited circumstances like a valid court order.” Given the rich information Google can compile with all of the data from social, search, Gmail, etc.
  • Google says they try hard to be transparent about the information they collect, and to give you meaningful choices about how it is used–for example “Ads Preferences Manager” enables you to edit the interest categories we advertise against or turn off certain Google ads altogether.
  • Google says they continue to design privacy controls, like Google+’s circles, into its products from the ground up.

“The way that we handle information about your website’s visitors is also unchanged. Their data will continue to be governed by your website’s privacy policies, and their actions will remain anonymous in Google Analytics to both websites and Google. The only change for Google Analytics users under the new privacy policy is that now, information about how you interact with the Google Analytics interface may be shared with our other products,” Muret added.

You can watch the video explaining the changes:

Or, read through the new privacy policy changes here, and data sharing settings here.

Update: Google in a January 26 blog post posted anwers to series of questions raised by the U.S. Congress and users about the new privacy polices:

  • “You still have choice and control. You don’t need to log in to use many of our services, including Search, Maps and YouTube. If you’re logged in, you can still edit or turn off your Search history, switch Gmail chat to “off the record,” control the way Google tailors ads to your interests, use Incognito mode on Chrome, or use any of the other privacy tools we offer.
  • We’re not collecting more data about you. Our new policy simply makes it clear that we use data to refine and improve your experience on Google — whichever products or services you use. This’s something we have already been doing for a long time.
  • We’re making things simpler and we’re trying to be upfront about it. Period.
  • You can use as much or as little of Google as you want. For example, you can have a Google Account and choose to use Gmail, but not use Google+. Or you could keep your data separate with different accounts — for example, one for YouTube and another for Gmail,” states Betsy Masiello, Policy Manager.

Update: 01/31:

Responding to question raised by the Congress over Google’s new consolidated privacy policies into a single document, which comes effect on March 1 — Google says “With this update, by folding more than 60 product-specific privacy policies into our main Google one, we’re explaining our privacy commitments to users of those products in 85% fewer words.”

Here some important things that aren’t changing with this update:

  • “We’re still keeping your private information private — we’re not changing the visibility of any information you have stored with Google.
  • We’re still allowing you to do searches, watch videos on YouTube, get driving directions on Google Maps, and perform other tasks without signing into a Google Account.
  • We’re still offering you choice and control through privacy tools like Google Dashboard and Ads Preferences Manager that help you understand and manage your data.
  • We still won’t sell your personal information to advertisers.
  • We’re still offering data liberation if you’d prefer to close your Google Account and take your data elsewhere,” writes Pablo Chavez, Director, Public Policy in a January 31 blog post.

Here is Google’s response to U.S. Congress members’ qestions, clearing up the confusion about these changes:

Update 02/01: Google made another post entitled “Busting myths about our approach to privacy”, the post attempts to respond to points highlighted by Microsoft’s privacy newspaper ad.

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