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Do Google Privacy Changes You More Vulnerable?

On March 1, 2012, the most popular search engine in the world changed its privacy policies. Although there has been a huge outcry among privacy advocates, the data Google can collect about its users has not changed much. However, there have been some changes in what Google proposes to do with the data it collects, and privacy experts are up in arms. But what will users really experience? Will they be more vulnerable to computer crime?

Google will now consolidate the data on individual users across all its products. So if you have been using YouTube, Gmail, Blogger and other popular Google products, Google will track your use on all of them collectively, rather than separately, building what it believes will be a more accurate picture of your likes and dislikes, what you buy, and where you go on the Internet. If you were trying to buy shoes online, the next time you log in to Google you might see ads for online shoe stores.This approach will give Google a more granular picture of its users, and strengthen its ability to compete for advertising dollars against other online giants such as Facebook.

But will it benefit users? Not much, say online experts. The great beneficiary is Google.Will this increase the opportunity for computer crimes such as identity theft? It is in Google's interest to protect users' data - that is what gives the online giant a competitive advantage. So time will tell. In the meantime, however, there are some small steps that users can take to protect themselves:

  • Find out what Google knows about you - visit Google dashboard
  • Find out what Google thinks you are interested in - review the interests and demographics that Google has used as tags
  • Go to Google's Ad Preferences Manager; this site also allows you to opt out of targeted advertising
  • Clear your Google browsing history -- go to Web History

Source: Huffington Post, "Google Privacy Policy Changing For Everyone: So What's Really Going To Happen?" Feb. 29, 2102

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