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How Google's Privacy Policy Affects You

Tips to protect yourself from phishing scams and releasing too much information to advertisers

What if I want to minimize the amount of information Google collects? There's a simple way to minimize the amount of information Google collects about you. As the company's blog post announcing the changes indicates, "The main change is for users with Google Accounts." In other words, if you've set up a personal account on a Google service — say a Gmail address — the enhanced tracking will apply, by default. But when it comes to using Google search, Google Maps, YouTube and many other services, there's no reason you have to create an account at all. If you do have a Google account, your computer will automatically sign you in when you visit these sites. No problem: click the "Sign Out" option on the top right of the page and there will be no sharing of your information.

And if you've used Google's privacy settings to opt out of receiving personalized search results or advertising, that doesn't change under the new policy. Depending on the service being used, Google offers additional privacy tools.

Does this mean that no personal information will be collected? Even with the most stringent privacy settings, this doesn't mean that Google has no tracking information about you. Every computer on the Internet has a unique ID number, and that will still be visible to any online service you visit. But your activity will no longer be logged into a Google account history.

And Android phone users should understand that they are always logged in when using their devices.

There are government agencies looking into Google's new policy on both sides of the Atlantic. But it's worth remembering that there's a fairly distinct line between creepy and dangerous. There is undeniably something unsettling about doing a Google search for "incontinence" and having relevant product ads start showing up in your browser afterward. But it's hard to see the danger here, unless you happen to share your computer with someone unaware of your condition.

Next: Safeguard your privacy online. >>

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