Google privacy checklist: What to do before Google’s privacy policy changes on March 1



If you use any Google service, you’re about to surrender a lot more personal information to the Googleplex unless you take these steps to prevent it

We’ve been talking about it for weeks, but the big day is almost here: On March 1, Google will implement its new privacy policy and terms of service, unifying 70 separate privacy policies and extending them across most of Google’s offerings.

This grand consolidation means that all of your Google account data will live in a single database that every Google service can access. Google Maps will have access to your Gmail data, which will have access to your YouTube history, and so on. Google insists that this change will ultimately benefit users, but privacy advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation fear that users will lose control over the personal data they’ve shared with Google.

[ The Web browser is your portal to the world — as well as the conduit that lets in many security threats. InfoWorld’s expert contributors show you how to secure your Web browsers in this “Web Browser Security Deep Dive” PDF guide. ]

If you’d like to exert control over your Google-based data, you still have time to act before March 1. Google’s privacy settings can be tricky to navigate — the privacy Dashboard doesn’t provide full access to all privacy settings, and Google’s Data Liberation tool doesn’t support everything yet. But these tips should help limit what Google can find out about you.

Check the Dashboard
Your first destination is Google Dashboard. It provides an overview of the information Google has stored on your account across many of its most popular services. To get started, go to google.com/dashboard and log in with your Google account (typically an email address). There, you can see much of the data that Google has on you, from your Google+ account to your Gmail account.

Take a few minutes to click through the various services and to review the information Google is storing. Then clear out any data you no longer want associated with your account.

Clear your Google Web history
Google Web History keeps track of your Web browsing in order to help Google serve up more relevant search results, According to the company, Google Web History “saves information about your Web activity, including pages you visit and searches on Google. Over time, the service may use additional information about your activity on Google or other information you provide us in order to deliver a better search experience.”

Even while you’re logged out of your Google account, Google achieve a similar effect by tracking your search history via a browser cookie.

To turn this off, visit google.com/history while signed into your Google account and click Remove all Web history. In the next screen, click OK to confirm your decision, and thenceforth Google will no longer track your Web history for the sake of improving search accuracy. As the EFF notes, however, Google may still log this information for various internal purposes.

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