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How to protect your privacy on Google

Of late you must have come across a message from Google that they have changed their privacy policy. Few people, barring industry experts, pay heed to such policy declarations and most of the time they are legal jibber jabber but in many instances common folks must know what are the implications of the terms and conditions mentioned in these policies.

Google privacy policy

Google is not only a search giant it is also fast emerging as one of the biggest media companies in the world. The media these days is driven by targeted data; the more information they have about you the better targeted content they can put in front of you. This is what Google intends to achieve with its new privacy policy.

Up till now, however you used Google.com, your search behaviour wouldn’t reflect on the content and advertisements you encountered on, let us say, YouTube.com. Similarly, e-mail exchanges between you and your family members, friends and colleagues wouldn’t affect your search results. Your video preferences on YouTube wouldn’t affect your experience on Google.com. Basically, although all these properties belong to Google they couldn’t share data with each other.

From March 31, 2012 onwards all Google properties will be able to share information with each other and alter the way you use them. Here is an example:

You are logged on to your Google account (Gmail or whatever), you go to Google.com and search for “vacationing in Maldives”. Google already saves this information. But with the new policy Google will be able to use this information to highlight videos on YouTube. So it might happen that when you visit YouTube videos highlighting vacationing in Maldives will be put in front of you and even when you’re watching other videos the ads that appear at the bottom might be regarding vacationing in Maldives.

Not just Google.com, even if you’re exchanging e-mails – using Gmail – with your travel agent and talking about your next Maldives vacations, the next time on Google.com when you just search for “vacations” you might get more results from Maldives.

To some people it might be a privacy concern and to some it might not be, it depends on your personal preference. For instance some people wouldn’t like their browsing behaviour altered simply because they are using some search terms on Google.com or exchanging e-mails on a particular subject.

Protecting your privacy on Google

Many would say, stop using Google services but that is not feasible because there is no alternative available. You have to use Gmail, you have to use Google.com and for quality videos where to go to but YouTube?

You can do 2 things in order to prevent Google from using your information in order to present you with targeted content

  • Don’t keep yourself logged in: Google can only use your information if you are logged in. Most of us who don’t use public computers and have our own computers and laptops (or Tablet PCs) never log out of our Gmail accounts because it is a hassle to log back in each time we want to check our messages. In order to make sure that Google cannot affect the way you visit various websites simply log out of your Gmail account and start using the Internet as an anonymous person.
  • Use different Google accounts: You cannot access certain Google applications without logging in. For instance, blogger.com can only be accessed once you have logged in. Similarly, there are some videos on YouTube you can watch only when you are logged in. There are many third-party services that use your Google account credentials in order to let you in. To overcome this hurdle you can use different Google accounts. For instance, you can have a separate Google account just for your Gmail account. Then you can have a Google account for normal surfing and accessing third-party websites. And so on. You might consider using different browsers to manage different Google accounts otherwise it will be a problem constantly switching one account from another.

Right now these are the only 2 feasible methods to stop Google from using your information in order to influence your content behaviour on many of its websites. If you know of some more ways, kindly share them in the comments section.