Google overhauls privacy, user data sharing

Google is revising its privacy policies and changing how it collects and uses data from users of its services to provide more personalised search results and advertisements.

The Mountain View, California-based company said it is combining more than 60 privacy policies for its various services such as internet search, Gmail, Google+ and YouTube into a single policy that will take effect from March 1.

"We're rolling out a new main privacy policy that covers the majority of our products and explains what information we collect, and how we use it, in a much more readable way," Alma Whitten, Google's director of privacy, product and engineering, said in a blog post.

"We believe this new, simpler policy will make it easier for people to understand our privacy practices as well as enable Google to improve the services we offer," she said.

Google noted that "regulators globally have been calling for shorter, simpler privacy policies" and said it would inform users of the changes by email and with a notice on the Google.com home page.

Whitten also said that instead of having terms of service for individual products, Google was revising its terms of service to cover numerous products.

The main change involves users who have Google accounts.

"If you're signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services," Whitten said.

"In short, we'll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience," Whitten said.

By linking services and sharing information "we can make search better - figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink," she said. "We can provide more relevant ads too.

"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," she said.

Google has drawn increasing scrutiny from US and European regulators as it has grown into an internet powerhouse, branching out into various businesses including online mapping, shopping and travel and providing software for mobile phones and tablet computers.

In March of last year, the US Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with Google over Google Buzz, the social networking tool which spawned a slew of privacy complaints.

Under the settlement announced by the US regulator, Google is required to implement a comprehensive privacy program and will be subject to independent privacy audits every two years for the next 20 years.

- AFP

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