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Google is changing its privacy policy—what does that mean for us, and what implications does it have on other areas of internet security? Have you been wondering what’s with all the hoopla about Google making changes to its privacy policy or should I say policies?

Look no further! Keep reading and find out what changes are being made and why they’re important.

The new Google privacy policy to be instated next month on March 1, 2012 is a single privacy policy that will feature a combination of the previous 60+ product specific privacy policies. The aim of this policy consolidation is to make it easier for users to access their privacy policy, as well as to have one definitive privacy policy that shows how users’ collected data is being used across different Google products, such as Google mail and YouTube. 

With the same goal in mind, Google has rewritten the user’s privacy policy in simpler terms instead of continuing on with legal terms that make the privacy policy sound more like a binding contract.  Google’s privacy policy aims to provide its users with a better overall experience as well as provide its users with information and ads that are customized and pertain to each individual user (so that’s why I keep seeing those beauty ads above my gmail!). Any time you log into a Google account or related third party app, send an e-mail to Google, receive an SMS message from a Google related service, or use Google Maps or Latitude, Google is receiving information about you, whether it be your account information, cell phone number, or location via GPS. 

In addition to third party apps collecting our information for its own use, which is under each individual third party application’s own privacy policy, Google may also have secondary services which it “trusts” to obtain and sift through the information being collected. This was the most important and shocking part of its privacy policy, titled “Information Sharing.” I encourage everyone to specifically read over this section. Why is this important? As Google is combining all of its privacy policies and making one collective and more concise privacy policy, it will also be combining all of your information across the different google products you use (as well as third party applications). So, be careful about what information you’re sharing and who you’re sharing it with—a.k.a. keep track of your “digital footprint”!

While it is nice that Google wants to create a “better user experience” for its users by providing us with ads that are more suitable to our interests and auto-correcting words we keep misspelling, you might not always want your information to be shared with Google for one reason or another. So, if you do have a Google account which ranges from Gmail to your YouTube account, you might want to take a look at your Google Dashboard, where you can personalize your Google account privacy settings. 

For only certain services are we given the opportunity to opt out of Google combining our information. Why is that, and which services are they? These are some of the questions I have found that seem to be left out of Google’s updated privacy policy. If you’re like me, you probably don’t read every user agreement or privacy policy each time you sign up for a new online account or install new software. However, with more and more of our life being stored or shared online in the “cloud,” it is important to at least skim over the things for which you are signing up. Example: Your friend shares a photo on Facebook using a new app, but in order to see it you have to allow that app access to most of the information on your Facebook profile, as well as the names of your Facebook friends. When you think about it, it actually sounds pretty sketchy, but you just want to see that cute guy your friend from back home is dating, and without thinking you give that app permission to access your Facebook profile. We are all guilty of it, but it’s time to take charge of our online privacy, and choose who and what has access to our information. 

At least Google is trying to get our attention! Want to learn more about Google’s updated privacy policy? Check out Google’s FAQs. Want to learn about more internet security and how you can protect yourself? Check out this infographic.
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