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What You Need To Know About Google’s Privacy Policy

Here, we discuss what you need to know about Google's far-reaching privacy policy.

One of the world’s largest and most valuable tech companies, Google, often serves as the gateway to the internet. Whether we’re browsing the web, checking our email, getting directions, chatting with friends or even making payments, Google offers products to facilitate just about everything we do online.

Most of Google’s web-based services free of charge, which is part of what has made it so popular. So, to make money, it’s no secret that Google uses the information it gathers from its user base, selling information about what people search for, where they go and how they use the web so that companies can serve up personalized ads, PC World reported. To be clear, this data is anonymized, meaning it is not connected to any single person’s name or other individual identifiers.

With one company so deeply embedded in both the hardware and software we use every day, it’s crucial we take the time to understand the terms it outlines as to just how it uses our data, and how we can better protect our information. As a continuation of our Privacy Policy Series, we’ll break down Google’s privacy policy, noting certain terms you should be aware of.

Limited copyright license

While some companies will claim the right to access the content their customers store on their site for a variety of uses, Google’s privacy policy limits it to only using this data for running, promoting and improving its services, reported Terms of Service; Didn’t Read, a site dedicated to helping consumers understand complicated ToS agreements. While these limits are broader than other popular sites, they protect consumers from having their personal information used outside of Google’s own services.

Third-party sharing

Google may not use your original content beyond its own services, but it reserves the right to share your personal information with other companies, TOSDR found. The tech giant does tread more carefully when it comes to sharing sensitive details, such as those that pertain to your medical history, race or political activity, requiring users to actively opt in. Google can also publish or share its users information publicly, as long as it has been anonymized.

Indefinite data storage

There is no restriction on the length of time Google may hold onto your data, TOSDR reported. Even after you’ve deleted your accounts, Google can still share your data or use your content. Plus, Google reserves the right to use this information across its services. For example, information it collects from your email provider could be used to serve up apps on YouTube.

Update notifications

Whenever Google changes its privacy policy, it promises to notify its customers at least 14 days before the changes take place, according to TOSDR. This gives the public a chance to review and comment on the changes before they come into effect.

What you can do

While Google’s ability to collect and access data about its users may seem far reaching, there are a few flexible settings users can adjust to help keep their data more private, HowToGeek reported. Whether you use an Android phone, browse the web on Chrome, access your email via Gmail or use any other Google service, try searching through your settings for options that allow you to do things like:

  • Disable location tracking.
  • Opt-out of web tracking.
  • Turn off sync, which allows Google to store your bookmarks and recently viewed websites.
  • Erase some of the data Google has collected on you. Stay tuned for our article next month that tells you exactly how to erase some of that data.

While each of these features enhance your experience with Google’s services to a certain degree, some consumers might feel better protected knowing their information is being used in fewer places.

Though they are typically lengthy documents, it’s important to understand the privacy policies of the services you use and what kind of information they’re collecting about you. While, oftentimes, it’s relatively harmless, it’s a good practice to follow. You can apply the same habit to checking on your financial information, such as your Social Security Number and credit file, by investing in an identity protection service like Identity Guard.

Check out our most recent article about Apple's privacy policy and look for the final article in our Privacy Policy Series, What You Need To Know About Twitter's Privacy Policy.