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Google Updates Privacy Policy

Many of you have probably noticed a notification regarding Google's privacy policy change.  Google has been advertising and encouraging users to read their upcoming policy by displaying a notification on Google Search, as well as other Google apps.  

The change, which went into effect on March 1st, has sparked quite a bit of discussion concerning users' information that Google collects and shares. 

Please watch Google's video below which was released to explain why and how they made the change:

 

When a company as significant and impacting as Google mentions changing their policies, skepticism is often the immediate reaction.  We should have every right to worry, since it is our information that they are collecting after all.  However, we should also consider that Google has been using our information for years to create relevant search results and a customized user experience.  Without their ingenuity and resilience to initial criticism, we would not have many of the products that we enjoy today.

Google claims that making one privacy policy that applies to all Google applications will make it easier to understand and read the policies across platforms.  On the other hand, I do think it is imperative to be aware of the changes and the impact they may have.

Implications

The largest impact will be a result of Google delving further into customizing your experience by sharing your information between applications.  Google will attempt to associate your actions across its products into one user profile.  For instance, you watch certain types of videos on YouTube.  Now, when Google makes suggestions when you are typing in Google Search, it will pull from the videos you watched on YouTube to hopefully make a more accurate suggestion.  While this can seem a bit creepy, it also does personalize your experience over time

Likewise, Google's sharing of information will also "improve" the relevance of sponsored advertisements.  You do have a limited amount of say with regards to ads in your the "ad preferences" section of your profile.  Also, Google will allow you to correct/update your personal information as well, and you will be required to verify your identity.

Educate Yourself

The following are a few suggestions to make yourself more aware about what information Google can collect and what they will do with it:

  • Read Google's Privacy Policy for yourself
  • If you find yourself not understanding all of the technical terms mentioned, read Google's key terms defined
  • Know that if you do have an issue with their practices, you can write them a formal letter of complaint.  Google has promised they will contact the person who made the complaint to follow up.
So, there are a lot of unknowns with how much of an impact Google's policy will have.  To a degree, we will have to wait it out, but if we have have concerns, take action and seek to educate yourself over the coming months.
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