posted by Thom Holwerda on Mon 1st Jun 2015 15:17 UTC
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Google has just released a new tool to manage your privacy and information. Here's some of the things the new My Account tool can do:

  • Take the Privacy Checkup and Security Checkup, our simple, step-by-step guides through your most important privacy and security settings.
  • Manage the information that can be used from Search, Maps, YouTube and other products to enhance your experience on Google. For example, you can turn on and off settings such as Web and App Activity, which gets you more relevant, faster search results, or Location History, which enables Google Maps and Now to give you tips for a faster commute back home.
  • Use the Ads Settings tool to control ads based on your interests and the searches you've done.
  • Control which apps and sites are connected to your account.

Google has always been at the forefront of providing its user insight into and control over the information it has on you, and this tool fits right into that. It'd be great if the other tech giants - who collect the same information on you but act secretive and deceptive about it - were to follow in its footsteps.

Good thing this stuff isn't tied to Android updates, though, or we wouldn't be able to use it until 2034.

Anywho, in the same blogpost, the company also introduced a site where it answers questions regarding your information and privacy. In it, the company dispels a persistent myth - namely, that the company sells your information.

No. We do not sell your personal information.

We do use certain information, such as the searches you have done and your location, to make the ads we show more relevant and useful. Ads are what enable us to make our services like Search, Gmail, and Maps free for everyone. We do not share information with advertisers in a way that personally identifies you, unless you gave us permission. With our Ads Settings tool, you can control ads based on your interests and the searches you have done.

When you think about it, it makes zero sense for Google to "sell" or otherwise reveal your personal information to third parties. The information Google has on you is the goose that lays the golden eggs. It's the very reason Google can earn so much money through advertising - it knows more about you than other advertisers do, and is better at inferring patterns and connecting the dots to show you more relevant ads.

In the end, though, the question is one of trust. Do your trust Google with your data? Do you trust Apple with that same data? Microsoft? Facebook? Personally, I have zero trust in any of these companies, and thus, anything that I do not want other people to know will not find its way onto my computers or devices. I have a very simple test for this: if I wouldn't yell something loudly in a crowded restaurant or mall or something, it's not going to be input in a computer or device.

As for 'regular' information that I have no issues with if companies know it, I personally definitely "trust" Google more than Apple or Microsoft, if only because Google is under a lot more scrutiny than others. Apple is incredibly secretive and deceptive about the information it collects on you, and provides far less insight into and control over it than Google does. Microsoft, meanwhile, has a proven history of questionable behaviour that's well-documented - new Microsoft or no. Let's not even talk about Facebook.

In the end, all these companies have virtually the same privacy policies, and you give them the same rights to your stuff if you upload it to them. I choose to use the one under the closest and most scrutiny and which gives me the most insight into and control over my data. Your choice might be different, but don't delude yourself into thinking your data is safe at Google, Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook.

When it comes to privacy on the web, just assume everybody can see every bit you send - just like how everyone can hear you when you talk loudly in a crowded place. Do not trust any company, no matter how nice the PR sites look or how vicious its blogger attack dogs are.


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