Thursday, January 26, 2012

Google Overhauls, Consolidates Privacy Policies

PCMag.Com - Google said Tuesday that it has instituted a new, streamlined privacy policy that will consolidate the company’s 70 or so privacy policies across its products down to one – which will pull data from Google users if they’re logged in.

The new privacy policy will go into effect on March 1, Google said.

Google’s business model, like many others around the Web, has been to build a profile of its users and deliver them targeted, high-value advertising, paid for its advertising partners. In return, users get access to a wide variety of different services, from Maps to Gmail to Picasa, whose data can be integrated and shared.

Google said that it was trying to implement a single privacy policy for all of its products, tying them together to better educate users on what it does with their data. Google will collect far less data for users who are not logged in, but they won’t be able to use Google services like Gmail, either.

“What does this mean in practice? The main change is for users with Google Accounts,” Alma Whitten, director of privacy and product, wrote in a blog post. “Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

Google representatives declined to comment further.

The policy doesn’t explicitly distinguish between what information Google collects if the user is logged in and if he or she isn’t, although Google did make clear that it logs search queries for accuracy’s sake. After 9 months, it anonymizes the IP address of the search request, and cookies in its search engine logs after 18 months.

Google said it collects information that users provide, such as an email address, user name, password, and in some cases a mobile phone number and credit card, for Google+ and Google Wallet, respectively. While using Google services, Google may collect information including the IOP address and device ID of the device you’re using, cookies, and pixel tags.