Google launches its new privacy policy; can you sidestep it?

Consumer Reports News: March 01, 2012 01:23 PM

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Today is the day that Google's widely reported-on privacy policy change goes into effect. Under the new policy, Google can link any of your personal data that it gleans from one product account with information from other your Google accounts, including Gmail, Google+, and YouTube, as long as you're signed in—creating one unified user profile that's informed by many sources.

The reason for this move is ostensibly to help Google users. "Google claims this move will make life easier for consumers," said Ioana Rusu, regulatory counsel for Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. "But in truth, it will allow Google to better target you with ads tailored to your perceived preferences and interests."

In reality, the company isn't collecting more information than it had before, and Google claims it will not sell or share your information without your permission. But if the thought of having so much of your personal data in one place makes you a little queasy, is there any way for you not to participate?

  • You could stop using Google services altogether. But that's really a non-option for most people. (If you do want to quit Google, though, check out the Data Liberation Front website and tools, created by Google engineers.)
  • You can also sign out of Google services when you're conducting searches, so you'll be identified only by your computer's IP address—less radical than a total boycott, though not very convenient.
  • Another method of evading a unified Google profile is to create separate log-ins for each Google account, so they can't be linked.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation also recommends disabling Web History within your Google accounts and offers a step-by-step guide to doing so. This should keep your records "partially anonymized after 18 months, and certain kinds of uses, including sending you customized search results, will be prevented, " says the EFF.

The European Union has determined that the new Google policy violates European law, which didn't stop the company from implementing it. We'll continue to cover the story as it evolves.

Related:
What Google's new privacy policy means to Android phone owners
White House unveils online privacy initiative; advertisers to help
Report: Google and others tracking Safari browser users

Carol Mangis

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