Google privacy streamlined ahead of big EU data changes

Google is combining its 70+ privacy policies into one, hopefully easier to understand, single policy that covers all of its online services (bar a few it has to keep for legal reasons).

So whether you're using Google+, Google's mobile search engine, YouTube or Gmail - you'll be treated the same. The idea, says the internet giant, is to make the policy "more readable" and create a "beautifully simple, intuitive user experience across Google".

The changes will affect users who sign in to Google, no matter what platform they signed in on - so remember to stay signed out or use private browsing should you not want the Big G to keep track of the sort of things you're looking at online.

"There’s so much more that Google can do to help you by sharing more of your information with … well, you," said Alma Whitten, director of privacy, product and engineering at Google. "We can make search better - figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink.

"We can provide more relevant ads too. For example, it’s January, but maybe you’re not a gym person, so fitness ads aren’t that useful to you. We can provide reminders that you’re going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day. Or ensure that our spelling suggestions, even for your friends’ names, are accurate because you’ve typed them before."

Google is keen to stress that this doesn't mean a change in the way that your data is handled. "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," explained Whitten. "We try hard to be transparent about the information we collect, and to give you meaningful choices about how it is used."

The move comes as European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding announced an overhaul of the EU’s 17-year-old data protection rules to address the use of information on the web and streamline the way data protection agencies work.

Mark Owen, a partner at media and entertainment law firm Harbottle & Lewis contacted Pocket-lint to say: "The EU is putting a lot more pressure on companies to collect only the minimum data they need to conduct business, and to report breaches of the rules within 24 hours or face very punitive fines.

"There is also now a 'right to be forgotten' when individuals choose to leave a social network or withdraw from a business which has their data. Firms will have to make sure they can permanently delete any information they hold on an individual.

"Organisations must get consent before building a profile of an individual based on their individual characteristics and behaviour and before making any decisions about them based purely on automated processes."

Looks like Google's new privacy changes may be under more scrutiny that it may have hoped then. It's new policies come into practice on 1 March.



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