What do the changes mean for you?
From 1 March 2012 Google will start to aggregate all the data that is obtained from users who are logged in to their services. This includes data such as the keywords you type into Google, what you clicked on in the search results page, the videos you watch on YouTube and your map queries when you’re looking for directions.
This data can be used to “suggest search queries and tailor your search results based on your interests”. Read more. (Note – you need to be logged in to Google to get to that link).
For me, the key piece of information here is “users who are logged in”. If you don’t want your data aggregated, just make sure you’re not logged in to any Google services (Note – this approach doesn’t work for Gmail or Google + as you need to be logged in to access your account)
To check if you’re logged in, go to Google. If you’re logged in, either your email address or your Google + name will appear in the top right hand corner. If you’re not logged in, it will say “Sign In”.
Google has been personalising your search results for a long time now, which means that if you’re logged in to Google when you do a search, you might see different results than someone else who searches for the same keyword.
If you’re like me, you might be in the habit of staying logged in while you’re at your desk, perhaps to jump easily between Gmail, AdWords, Analytics, Google + and other Google products. If you want to be logged out when you search for information, try having two browsers open. For example, you have Safari open and say logged in to Google there, and you jump to Firefox when you want to do a search.
When you’re signed out, Google customises your search results based on a cookie that’s stored in your browser. So the data that’s stored is not personally linked to you and how customised the results will be can depend on how many other people search Google using your browser. Read more about Google accounts and web history.
Here’s an excellent article from the Sydney Morning Herald that includes a video on “How to Clear your Google History”.
Also check out the Google Dashboard, which offers “a simple view of all the data associated with your Google Account”.
Why is Google making these changes?
These new privacy changes will allow Google to better target the ads that you see, based your interests. (Well targeted ads are more likely to get clicked on and bring better ROI for the advertiser). You are able to change your Ads Preferences in the Ads Preferences Manager.
For me, I’m pretty comfortable with that idea. If I’m struggling to find the exact information that I’m looking for I welcome a well targeted ad that might take me straight there.
Others are raising concerns about the new policy because you can’t opt out of it. You either agree to it or you can’t use the Google services. Read more in Australia absent in Google privacy feud.
Let us know in the comments below.