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They're watching you.

On March 1st, 2012 – in case you hadn’t noticed – Google rolled out its new privacy policy. And, deep in cyberspace, much uproar and outrage ensued.

What Have They Done?

Well, Google is merging the individual privacy policies that apply to Google Search, Google +, YouTube, and some sixty-odd other services, into a single policy that covers all of them.

The new policy is intended to be an easy-to-understand statement of what kind of information Google collects about you when you are online – and of what Google does, with it.

Google will combine data it has gathered from your various accounts, and use it to “customize” your experience.

Why Have They Done This?

God only knows.

According to Google? The new policy should make it easier for you to see the kind of content you want on one Google service, based on your activity on other services within the Google network.

What Does THAT Mean? Really?

Individually-tailored content. Targeted advertising. Stuff like that.

Let’s say you’ve been on YouTube, watching horror movie trailers. The next time you go to Gmail, say, you might find your page bordered with ads for upcoming horror film festivals, discount horror DVDs, and so on.

Sounds Pretty Harmless

Not according to the European Union. Or the United States Congress. Or the government of Japan. Or umpteen users, on Twitter.

Their main concern is that – once you are signed in – Google will use your Web browsing history as part of a profile it builds on you. There is a fear that Google will have too much access to personal information, if they are allowed to gather so much data about you, in one place.

Furthermore, users are left with little choice, about how their data is handled.

Opting out of the new privacy policy is not really an option.

So, What ARE Your Options?

1. Well, you could opt out of Google, entirely.
Use (for example) Ask.com, for searches, Yahoo! for mail, Vimeo, for video, etc.

A bit fiddly. And all those separate services have terms and conditions, of their own. Not to mention all those user names and passwords.

2. Use Google, but don’t sign in.
Google doesn’t collate any information from users who aren’t signed in.

This, incidentally, is the option recommended by Google, itself.

Fine, as long as you don’t forget to sign out of one service, before using another.

3. Limit the extent to which Google can track you.
Like this:

* Sign into your Google service account.
Access the ‘Account Settings’ menu. Typically, this will be in a drop-down menu under your name, in the upper right-hand corner.

* Click on ‘Account Settings’.

* Find the section called ‘Services’.
You will see a link to ‘View, Enable, or Disable Web history’, in a red box. Click on it.

* Remove all of your search details by clicking on ‘Remove Web History’, in the red box.
Your viewing history will remain disabled, until you turn it back on.

Note that disabling your Web history won’t prevent Google from gathering and keeping this information, for internal use.

It will prevent “customized” search results.

And it will oblige Google to “anonymize” your data, in 18 months.

Good luck.

And, let’s be careful, out there.

Peace.

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