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Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Google To Merge Users Data Across Products, Introduces Streamlined Privacy Policy

Google has started alerting users of its products that it's changing the way it treats users' data, combining even more information it knows about them from all of its products, from Gmail to YouTube.

Google is putting a notice on its home page and sending emails to users starting Tuesday. Google says the changes will give users "a better, more consistent experience on Google products and will help advertisers better reach users who are interested in their products and services."

Google's new main privacy policy covers the majority of its products and explains what information Google collects, and how its uses it, in a much more readable way. Regulators globally have been calling for shorter, simpler privacy policies - and having one policy covering many different products is now fairly standard across the web. The changes to Google's privacy policy and terms of service take effect March 1. They remove legal hurdles Google had faced in combining information from certain properties such as YouTube or search history.

The main change for users is related to Google Accounts. The new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if a user is signed in, Google may combine information he or she has provided from one service with information from other services. "In short, we'll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience," Google said.

For example, Google's recently launched personal search box now gives users answers not just from the web, but their personal stuff too. So if you search for restaurants in Munich, you might see Google+ posts or photos that people have shared with you, or that are in your albums.

Google says that it would also make search "better" figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink. But most importantly, Google can now provide more relevant ads too.

The latest Google Terms of Service page is available here.

Google added that it doesn't sell users' personal information, nor hare it externally without users' permission except in limited circumstances like a valid court order. Google's Ads Preferences Manager enables users to edit the interest categories Google is advertising against or turn off certain Google ads altogether.

"We believe this new, simpler policy will make it easier for people to understand our privacy practices as well as enable Google to improve the services we offer," Google added.

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