Quick Steps to Take in Advance of Google's Privacy Policy Changes

By David Ringstrom, CPA
 
If you use any Google products, such as Gmail, Google, YouTube, etc., you've probably been bombarded with a blizzard of "hey, this is important, we're changing our privacy policy" prompts. In theory, Google is simplifying privacy control with a single overarching policy. Cynics, however, may consider this more privacy theater, where we're given the illusion of having control over our actions on the Internet, while companies continue to aggregate even more information about us as individuals.
 
Regardless, if you use Google products on or after March 1, 2012, you'll give them implicit permission to aggregate your web search history, YouTube viewing habits, and other information Google has gleaned about you into a single mega-dossier. Previously, search histories were siloed and controlled by individual privacy policies, but going forward, all your information will be stirred together into a big data soup.
 
If you haven't already done so, it would be a good idea to read Google's new privacy policy.
 
Although you can't stop Google from tracking you in myriad ways, you can prevent your web search history from being automatically added to your dossier:
  1. Log into your Google account: https://accounts.google.com/Login
  2. Next, visit the Google Web History page: https://www.google.com/history/
  3. If a "No Thanks" button appears, your web history isn't being collected. Otherwise, click the "Remove All History" button, and then click OK on the confirmation prompt.

To see step-by-step pictures, visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) DeepLinks blog post on the topic. A second post documents how to remove your YouTube viewing and search history.

According to the EFF, turning off Google's history features doesn't prevent it from gathering information for internal purposes, but collected data is partially anonymized after eighteen months. Although much has changed in the past six years on the Internet, the EFF article Six Tips to Protect Your Search Privacy published in 2006 is now more relevant than before.
 
Read more articles by David Ringstrom. 
 
About the author:
David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at david@acctadv.com or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link.

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