Google permission changes March 2012
So, what changes are being made and what is my advice for you as a Google services user?
Your favourite Google services aren't going to change that much. The main purpose of this update is to adopt a “one size fits all” approach to privacy policies, so that one policy will apply to all of the different Google products you use. At the end of the day this makes things much easier.
Understand all the facts - what's changed in the policy update?
Cookies (not the kind you have with a glass of milk)
If you’re at all worried about your personal information being stored in the browser, you can clear the cookies stored on your PC from your web browser’s privacy settings menu.
As well as storing cookies, Google also keeps a record of your IP address. An IP address is basically an address for your computer; just like your house has its own number and post code, your computer has an IP address.
The main reason for this is so when you connect to the internet, certain websites and services pinpoint and save your location. This is so that when you search for take aways or doctors’ surgeries you're going to see the closest services to you instead of ones in another part of the country or world.
Fortunately, your IP gives away very little information about you. If you were to Google your own IP, then you would see your internet service provider (TalkTalk/Virgin/BT/SKY etc), your country, and the location of the nearest large town or city to you.
For this bit, we need to take a step back from the Google we all see every day, that is Google.com the search engine, and remember Google Inc. is the largest advertising company in the world.
Back in March 2003, Google started using targeted advertising; showing you adverts that may interest you based on your searching habits. Facebook and many other websites do this too.
But, you do have a choice. If you are not happy with Google anonymously keeping an eye on what you search for in order to show you specifically targeted adverts, go to https://www.google.com/history/, log into your account, then click “Remove Web History”. This will also pause your web history, so no more search history will be stored. So this means that searching for a florist for your wife won’t then mean you get adverts popping up with flowers, so your surprise will remain a secret until she gets them!
Also remember that if you use Gmail, this is also anonymously scanned by Google AdSense and that you will see adverts relevant to the content of your message.Google likes to point out, so its only fair we do, that this process is entirely automated and anonymous so no person will ever read your email or your search history.
The main thing to remember here is that most mobile apps (again, not just Google ones) share your location by default; this is normally to the nearest cell mast, but if you have GPS turned on it can share your location even to a couple of metres! If you use Google Latitude your location automatically updates as long as the app is running. Check out our smartphone security article for more information on locking location sharing down on your Android smartphone.
Finally, I am going to end on what is most likely your first view of the Google Dashboard. If you are a Google account user this is the best place to go to see what information Google has stored about you and if you are not comfortable with the information that's stored you can request a copy of all your personal data held by Google and ask them to remove it. For more information visit http://www.dataliberation.org/.
Some of it is very valuable information to have secured online in a safe place, like your Google contacts and Android device history if you use an Android smartphone - if your device ever gets lost or stolen you'll have a back up of all your contacts and a copy of your IMEI number to give to the police.