Google Creates New Centralized Privacy Control Site

15 July 2015

If you’ve ever wondered exactly what information Google is collecting about you when you use its services, like Google search, maps and YouTube, you can now find out. Google has launched a new settings page from which you can view and configure your privacy and security settings, making it easier to control the dissemination of your personal information.

The new controls will be available through a page called “My Account,” but they can be accessed even if you don’t have a Google account at myaccount.google.ca. On this page, you can run a privacy checkup, allowing you to customize your privacy settings, and a security checkup, which ensures that your account and any connected devices are secure and you can be contacted in case of unusual activity on your account. Customizable items include the information shown on users’ Google profiles and whether or not a particular user can be found on Hangouts using their phone number.

One important factor that can be customized through the new privacy hub is whether Google saves your history from various locations, including YouTube Search and watched videos, browser history and voice and audio activity. Modifying this setting so that your history is not saved will result in less data being collected on your browsing habits.

Google has also introduced a new website, privacy.google.ca, which explains the type of information Google collects on its users and why. According to the page, search data is collected mainly for the purpose of providing a more customized ad experience based on the topics that users’ history suggests they might be interested in.

Google had previously introduced several other tools to help users monitor their Google activity and the information they share with the company. In 2009, Google Dashboards was launched, and in 2012, more detailed privacy controls were developed and implemented. However, the new “my account” page features the most accessible and extensive set of privacy and security controls yet in a single location.

Google users will likely welcome this development, as it comes at a time when people are becoming more concerned about how their data is being used by large companies and government agencies. According to TechCrunch, many privacy advocates have been particularly concerned about Google’s data collection because people use Google for such a wide-ranging set of services, from search to email to document storage to casual entertainment. This combined information makes it easy for marketers and anyone else who accesses it to make a fairly good educated guess about a person’s location, age, background and other demographic factors.

In fact, Google has recently come under fire in both the Netherlands and Britain for not providing clear and accessible privacy policies and controls. In January, Google agreed to make its privacy policies more public in a settlement with the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office.

If you’re concerned about your personal information being accessed online and used for identity theft, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service to be alerted to certain types of activity that could indicate fraud in your credit file.

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