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What Google's new privacy policy means to you

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CIOL Bureau
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BANGALORE, INDIA: So, Google has done it again. In a span of mere four months, there is another modification in its privacy policy.

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And unlike some previous occasions, it is going to be a major revamp. "We're getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that's a lot shorter and easier to read," said an official blog.

Effective March 1, the new privacy policy changes would cover multiple — almost all of Google's — services/products and features, which, in the organization's words, is to create "one beautifully simple and intuitive experience". It would include Gmail, Google+, Orkut, YouTube and Picasa, among other products.

"If you're signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services," Google's director of Privacy, Product and Engineering, Alma Whitten, wrote in a blog post.

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As much Google promises transparency and choice as possible to users, there seems no way out for the latter from being brought under the new privacy policy.

"In short, we can treat you as a single user across all our products," says the Google statement.

It raises some concerns for users, who are forced to think that the service provider might invade their privacy and capitalize on it by posting ads based on their search behaviour and messages.

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Also, there is the worry that it might throw open to public glare some personal information or messages intended to be just that by a specific user, whose information and identity across services would be merged based on the mail address.

Cyber law consultant Na. Vijayashankar aka Naavi, doesn't see much of a threat in the move, though he doesn't totally endorse it. "When an organization has a set of privacy policies, it will be shared within its services. At the same time, it will not be shared outside the legal entity. This practice is already there," he explains.

In Google's case, adds Naavi, it might be perhaps rewriting managerial policies, as there could have been unintended differences in terms & conditions over its 60 and more policies.

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On its part, Google has also promised, "Our privacy principles remain unchanged. And we'll never sell your personal information or share it without your permission (other than rare circumstances like valid legal requests)."

As for leveraging ads using the new 'integrated' policy, a cyber security expert says, "Many sites like Google and Yahoo, have already been doing that based on what you search and the user trends on their products. So, it's not going to be anything radically different from what we have been seeing."

It has also mentioned under a new tab on its Search page — New Policy & Terms — that users can utilize Google Dashboard and Google Dashboard and Ads Preferences Manager alongside other tools, to manage their settings.

Google Dashboard has information about your Google account and enables you to change your privacy settings for various Google services/products from one central location.

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