20th May 2019

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by: Admin

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Categories: News

How Can You Protect Your Privacy When Using Google?

Have you read Google’s 37 page current privacy policy? If the answer is no, you are not alone. The reality for most people is that they simply accept privacy policies and cookie notices on websites, without giving them any thought. But we decided to examine Google’s privacy policy in a bit more detail, so that we can share with you some of the ways in which you can protect your privacy, should you wish to do so, whilst using the search engine. Did you know, for example, that you can elect to browse the web privately using Chrome in Incognito mode?

Google Privacy

This article is primarily seeking to explain what options you have to control your privacy when using Google.

Activity Controls

You can decide what types of activity you would like to have saved in your account. The various options relate to web and app activity, location history, device information, voice & audio activity, YouTube search history and YouTube watch history. You might be surprised to see that, for example, Google has a record that you said ‘hey Google, play radio 2 at 06.45’ 2 weeks ago.

Ad Settings

In the Ad Settings you can manage your preferences about the ads which Google and their partner apps show you. You can amend your interests and choose whether you wish to have your personal data used to make ads more relevant to you. You are also able to turn certain advertising services on or off.

About You

You are able to control what other people see about you across Google services.

There are also some other options you can control, such as shared endorsements, which are recommendations by Google of other products and services that might be of interest to you. These options are available at https://policies.google.com/privacy. The privacy policy also enables you to export and delete your data and explains how you can configure your browser to block all cookies from a specific domain or all domains.

You can also do a Google privacy check-up at https://myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup. Enjoy exploring what information Google is holding about you. It is interesting to note that there are over 2 million non-google websites and apps that partner with Google to show adverts.

The Chief Executive of Google, Sundar Pichai recently wrote an article, which was published in the New York Times (7 May 2019), saying that privacy should not be a luxury. He states that “people today are rightly concerned about how their information is used and shared, yet they all define privacy in their own ways. I’ve seen this first-hand as I talk to people in different parts of the world. To the families using the internet through a shared device, privacy might mean privacy from one another. To the small-business owner who wants to start accepting credit card payments, privacy means keeping customer data secure. To the teenager sharing selfies, privacy could mean the ability to delete that data in the future.” He goes on recognising that over the past 20 years billions of people have trusted Google with questions they wouldn’t have asked their closest friends, such as what is this weird rash on my arm? He concludes the article by saying that Google has a responsibility to lead in the area of privacy protection.

Google have reportedly recently announced that they will be rolling out a dashboard-like function in its Chrome browser to offer users more control in fending off privacy-invading tracking cookies. However, as reported in Time magazine, some critics say that Google’s privacy updates sidestep more substantial changes that could threaten its ad-driven business model. Jeremy Tillan, the president of Ghostery, an organisation which provides ad-blocking and anti-tracking software, says that the updates only offer marginal improvements: “[T]hey are not bad, but they almost seem like they’re designed to give the company a better messaging push instead of making wholesale improvements to user privacy.”

Google have announced that they will be opening a global hub for Google’s cross-product privacy engineering efforts in Munich, which is to be called the Google Safety Engineering Centre (‘GSEC’). They have stated that they will be doubling the number of privacy engineers to more than 200 by the end of this year.

We appreciate that organisations such as Google are only able to provide services free of charge to the user on the basis that they receive payment from advertisers, but it is important for us as individuals to fully understand how our personal data is being used and that this is wholly transparent. The revised Google Privacy Policy does enable us as individuals to opt out of the routine processing in a reasonably easy way. Whether individuals decide to take this option or not will no doubt depend on how they are using Google services. They might benefit from knowing, for example, that there is a traffic jam ahead, and might wish to select a different route for their journey. In any event, we would certainly advise you to take a look at options, and to gain some insight as to precisely how Google is using your personal data and what data it holds about you.

If you have any queries about data protection compliance, please feel free to contact us – we love talking about privacy and data protection!