Google privacy policy changes and how to protect your online privacy

Google’s new privacy changes take effect March 1 and if you haven’t read them yet you should.  You can find them online here.  Here is a little summary of what these policy changes mean for Google services users.

Google states:

  • If you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services.  (Sort of like how Facebook is now working with services like Yahoo to automatically post content to your timeline sharing what you have read).
  • We can make search better – but that means storing your private information and pulling from it for everything from calendars to search topics (have you noticed the Google auto find feature where you start to type a word or phrase and it finishes it for you for example)
  • We don’t sell your personal information, nor do we share it externally without your permission except in very limited circumstances like a valid court order.

Here is their simple explanation video . . .

I highly recommend reading their privacy policy in full which explains exactly what happens with communications, services, searches, user information and cookies.

If this concerns you there are some steps that you can take to protect your online privacy.  The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) offers these six steps for protecting your online privacy, and they are very good pieces of advice.  They also demonstrate how to take these steps.  These steps include:

  • Don’t include personal information in your search terms.  Have you “Googled” yourself?  That’s one way to create a “roadmap” right back to you.
  • Don’t use your ISP’s search engine.
  • Avoid logging in and using your search engine (whether it is Yahoo, Bing or Google)
  • Block cookies (and they will tell you how)
  • Vary your IP address (which is a lot simpler than it sounds)
  • And using anonymizing software.
What steps can you take right now to protect your online privacy as the new privacy policies take affect?
1)  Don’t log in to use the tools from Google.  You can always log in later to get to the other tools you want like docs, mail, calendar and blogger.
2) Next you can . . .
Sign into your Google account.
Select “remove all web history”
At the prompt select “OK”
This pauses your Google Web History. However, it does not stop Google from collecting your web history information  and using it for internal purposes or providing it to law enforcement officials.

Why is this important?
Your online privacy is important.  The majority of identity theft personas are created using bits and pieces of a real person’s information.  Also, your online actions should be, your actions, not the ads or actions that some one else wants to steer you towards.
Last but not least,  consider this . . . I write articles. Sometimes that means doing research on some pretty questionable topics like “Spice” or Bottle Bombs.”  These are not so I can indulge in these activities, but  to share with other parents this information.  How does the search engine know this?  How do law enforcement know this?
Why not take a few minutes to take those steps that can protect your online privacy as much as you can?  What have you got to lose?