The big change in how Google is going to use your information comes in the form of personalization across multiple services. Google has already been able to use information from one service to assist another, but the new policy makes it easier. For instance, if Google knows you search for Quentin Tarantino frequently, you might see suggestions for clips of his movies when you head over to YouTube. And then of course there are the ads, which will most likely become more targeted as Google shares all of your information across all of their services.
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But that hasn’t stopped some individuals and organizations from worrying about the implications of the changes. Privacy groups like EPIC as well as the Federal Trade Commission have expressed thier concerns with the new policy. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz recently called the new policy “brutal.” Earlier this month, 36 state Attorneys General sent a letter to Google, saying that the new all-inclusive policy “appears to invade consumer privacy.”
For those of you concerned about how Google is sharing your information, there are steps that you can take (within Google) to halt the spread of your data. With a couple clicks of your mouse, you can control your information when it comes to search history, personalized results, and targeted advertising.
First up, you can turn off personal results in search right now. Personalized results are Google’s way of saying that they return specific searches to you based on your web history, use of other Google products, and (the recently begun) Google+ circles. If you choose to turn of personal results, here’s what Google says will happen:
If you turn off personal results and stay signed in to your Google Account, you won’t see results personalized based on your Google+ circles (or suggested connections), Google products, or your search history.
Note that if you turn off personal results but sign out of your Google Account, you will still see personal results based on the context of your search (previous searches, geography).
Within search results, simply click on the settings cog at the top right and go to “search settings.”
About halfway down the page, you’ll find the option to turn off your personal results:
From that same page, you can head on over to your web history and remove all of it, which will also pause your web history. You can also access your web history via the settings cog in the upper right corner of search results.
Next, you easily opt out of targeted ads across Google services. Sign in to your Google account, and head on over to the Ad Preferences page. On the left-hand side, you’ll see the link to “opt out.”
If you click “opt out,” heres how that will affect the advertising you see:
Opt out if you prefer ads not to be based on interests and demographics. When you opt out, Google disables this cookie and no longer associates interest and demographic categories with your browser. Google and its advertisers may work with certain third-parties for advertising purposes. If you opt-out of customized ads, we extend your decision, so that services provided by these third-parties do not work in conjunction with our cookie.
And within other Google services like YouTube, you can always go in and clear or pause your viewing history:
Of course, you can also check out your Google Dashboard where you can view and manage all your data across all your Google services. Google’s Privacy Tools also allows you to take steps to protect your privacy.