Google privacy changes

Today Google will roll out its controversial new privacy policy.

The new rules, which Google says will enable it to provide better-tailored search results, have been criticised by privacy groups. The EU has also warned Google that it may be in breach of European law.

Privacy is becoming an increasingly sore subject for Google. But what is the search giant doing, and how does it affect you?

What is Google doing?

Google’s new privacy rules will allow it to share user information across all of its services. The company owns several popular sites including YouTube and Gmail, and it now intends to collect user information from all of those sources, collate it, and use it (it says) to tailor the search results it serves.

In reality, Google’s focus is likely to fall on advertising just as firmly as it does on search. By combining data across services it will be able to improve its ad targeting – and therefore make its product more enticing to potential advertisers

Why is this controversial?

The changes have raised hackles across Europe. Web users are becoming increasingly sensitive to privacy issues – but at the same time it often seems that many sites are gradually whittling away their users’ rights.

The EU has already warned Google that its new policies may put it in breach of European law, but the company has said that it will go ahead anyway. The EU’s primary concern is the sheer impenetrability of the new rules. The changes are very difficult to understand; indeed, even data professionals have said that they do not fully grasp the scale of the new policies.

Experts are also concerned about the scale of the data being collected. Google’s services are varied and broad, and there are significant differences in the data that is collected on each. There is speculation that the combining of this data could put Google in breach of rules regarding the scope of information that can legally be collected.

Can I stop it?

The new privacy policy will be rolled out over the course of the day. If you want to keep using Google’s services, you currently have no choice but to accept.

There are, however, a few steps that you can take to minimise the impact. The most important of these is to clear and pause your Google Browsing History. You can do that by clicking here.

You should also familiarise yourself with Google Dashboard, which provides an overview of all your Google services. You can use the Dashboard to tweak your privacy settings on each service.

Finally, you can turn off personalised ads altogether – although you should understand that this won’t stop Google collecting your data. You can do this here.