Google Privacy Policy Changes Survival Guide

Google Privacy Policy Changes Survival Guide

Summary: This simple guide gives concrete, individual guidance to prepare you for Google's new privacy policy.


Google's new privacy policy takes effect tomorrow, March 1, and there are a few things you may want to do - and be aware of - before the new policy takes effect.

Combining all of your information and history

Google is combining all policies for each of their 70 services into one comprehensive policy.

The search giant also merging all history and data into one giant profile of you, your searches, your contacts, your browsing history and more.

Here is Google's new Privacy Policy Preview.

Some people think these changes are no big deal: for these people the new policy is not an issue.

But many other people are deeply concerned about the changes.

Some are very uncomfortable with the data fingerprint that one company will have on them and what Google might do with it.

Others are worried about the vague wording in parts of the new policy.

France now claims that the new policy violates European Union data privacy laws.

The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) hates it, and sent a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to conduct an investigation and tell Google to delay the implementation of its new privacy policies.

No matter how you feel, it's a good reminder to do inventory on what you've unintentionally handed over to Google.

Take a personal inventory

First, think about the Google services you use (and have used in the past) and what kind of information you might have left behind.

Some Google properties you may use include Google (search), Gmail, YouTube, Chrome, Blogger, Picasa, Google Plus, Google Voice, Analytics, Docs, Maps, Music, Groups, Books, Wallet, Reader, Latitude, Feedburner and more.

Here is a complete list of Google products.

To see exactly which Google products have your history and data, visit Google Dashboard and log in with your Google (Gmail) name and password.

There, you will see every Google service you use, the current privacy policies and links where you can manage (or delete) the information you've left there.

Google has set aside specific privacy policy changes for:

  • Chrome and Chrome OS
  • Books
  • Wallet
  • Next, consider what kind of information that you would like to control.

    For instance, your area of concern might be your search history or the videos you've watched on YouTube. Maybe it's your location, people you know and communicate with, sexual orientation, interests, age, religion, real name, or health issues (or anything in your history that may reveal this information to Google).

    Also, Google's Privacy Policy Preview states:

    If other users already have your email, or other information that identifies you, we [Google Inc..] may show them your publicly visible Google Profile information, such as your name and photo.

    Until now, your information on all these different services was mostly separate from other Google services you use.

    Now it will be put all together, and Google has the right to use it internally and to create a profile with which to show you advertising targeted toward your interests, age group, location, and more.

    This information can also be requested by government and law agencies (globally).

    Do note that Google's new policy has some interesting language around logs, specifically:

    • telephony log information like your phone number, calling-party number, forwarding numbers, time and date of calls, duration of calls, SMS routing information and types of calls.

    This would appear to apply to Google Voice, so users of this service will want to take this tidbit into consideration. To me, the vagueness in this section is going to be particularly unsettling for many people who are left to guess exactly what it means.

    Specific cleanup: your web search, YouTube history and more

    If you don't know where to start, the is where you'll see the services collecting data that Google has about you.

    Google's privacy suite Good To Know is a very simplified guide to understanding your data on Google services and includes information on how to export all of your data from Google (note: this does not delete the information).

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation has compiled two excellent guides that show step-by-step how to clean up your history on Google's popular Search and YouTube services.


    You can also visit and click Remove all web history.

    Keep in mind that disabling Viewing and Search History in your YouTube account, and disabling Web History in your Google account will not prevent Google from gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes.

    FYI: If you have Web History enabled, Google will keep these records indefinitely.

    You can also remove specific items from your Google Search history.

    If you have used Google Latitude here is how to remove (and if you choose, disable) your location history.

    For an extra bit of insurance to prevent Google using your data to sell you ads, visit Google's Ad Preferences page and opt out. On the right side under 'Ads on Search and Gmail' you'll see where to click Opt Out.

    Don't panic. It may seem overwhelming, but Google has made quite a bit of this cleanup easy to do.

    What concerns me is what could happen to our personal info in an era when data is money, and that now our own individual data carries an unknown price (both literally and figuratively).

    Topics: Browser, Google, Legal, Security, Social Enterprise

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    • I'm starting to think that no one understands...

      An algorithm parses data looking for key words and then basically matches up those key words to targeted advertising to you.
      There is no dirty old man actually looking at your data or what you are doing. I think the people worried about this are the same people who worried that Y2K would be the biggest catastrophe ever.
      • There is a dirty old man

        [i]There is no dirty old man actually looking at your data or what you are doing.[/i]
        Except for that one Google employee who got caught looking at chats and emails of minors. Makes you wonder who else at Google has done this. Google is a tarnished brand.
        Loverock Davidson-
      • Y2K

        The reason Y2K wasn't a huge disaster is that people did worry about it and worked very hard to assure that problems would not arise.

        I'm not worried about some dirty old man at Google. I am not worried about Uncle Sam. I'm worried what kind of subpoena my low-down lying ex might get for my data the next time she tries to take my kids away. The data aggregation is extremely useful but like all powerful tools it can also be a powerful weapon.
    • proof reading?

      "but may other people are.." No proof reading again. :(
    • very helpful

      Thank you for a very informative article.
      Personally, I do not care much about my search words being sold, but a thought of my photo being sent to people getting my emails makes me very uncomfortable.
      Good thing I do not use gmail.
      • Thanks from me also

        I have done a good bit of Google migration and your article provides me the ways I can double check.

        Appreciate it.

    • Thanks for the lengthy article. I knew about a lot of it but not how to...

      Thanks for the lengthy article. I knew about a lot of it but not how to opt out of those pointless Google Ads when searching (they're almost never the best result).

      The Dashboard is nice enough but really annoyingly you cannot delete almost any service using it. For instance, I thought Google App Sync was something else, signed up and then quickly cancelled but nearly 2 years on, IT'S STILL THERE!

      There are other Google Services in my Dashboard I'd just like to delete too but seemingly there is no way of doing this (without deleting my entire account).
    • Apparently I've done a good job so far, but I'll keep plugging away...

      My Gmail ad snippet - I've seen it several times: "You can make a lovely hat out of previously-used aluminum foil." I wonder if that shows I've done a good job /tin-foil-hat