It’s no secret that Google, as well as most other Internet services, collect data about your usage -- unless you tell them not to. The trick is figuring out how to opt out of the data collection cycle and keep your Internet use private while still making the most of the services.
Google just took a step to bring more clarity to the masses with a new dashboard called My Account that lets you fine tune what information Google collects about you. Google is also launching privacy.google.com, a Web site that offers frequently asked questions and solid answers about privacy.
A recent Pew study revealed that 93 percent of people think it’s important to control access to their personal information, and 90 percent care about the type of information that’s collected about them. But only 9 percent feel they have “a lot” of control over it. Google said it wants to change that.
“Everyday, we make choices that affect our privacy and security online,” said Guemmy Kim, a Product Manager for Google’s Account Controls and Settings. “Most people, however, don’t feel they have the right level of control to make these important decisions.”
Two Sides of the Same Coin
With that, Kim went into greater detail about the new privacy and security tools. First, he called privacy and security two sides of the same coin. That’s because if information isn’t secure, there’s no way it can be private.
“My Account gives you quick access to the settings and tools that help you safeguard your data, protect your privacy, and decide what information is used to make Google services work better for you,” Kim said. “It also provides more context to help you understand your options and make the right choices for you.”
My Account lets you take a privacy and security checkup that guides you through what Google deems the most important privacy and security settings. You can also manage the information that Search, Maps, YouTube and other Google products employ to better your experience. You can also use ad settings to control ads based on your interests and searches, among other things.
A Positive Move Toward Privacy
As part of its FAQ effort, Google is answering some critical questions, such as: What data does Google collect? What does Google do with the data it collects? What tools do I have to control my Google experience?
“We also explain how we show relevant ads without selling your personal information, how encryption and spam filtering help keep your data safe, and how your information helps customize your experience on Google,” Kim said. This is just the beginning of how Google will work to offer a more secure, private experience with its properties and apps, Kim added.
We caught up with Greg Sterling, Vice President of Strategy and Insight at the Local Search Association, to get his reaction to the new tools. He told us to enable Android and Google users to have greater understanding and control over who's accessing their data and how it's being used is a very positive move for Google.
“It remains to be seen how deeply people will interact with these new controls but it's an important move by Google -- one that the company was undoubtedly motivated to make at least in part by external pressure and criticism," Sterling said.