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Information Overload: Clear your Google Web history

March 3, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 2, 2012 at 9:03 p.m.


By C.J. Castillo

Google's new privacy policy went live March 1, meaning that company is combining all of their privacy policies for various products into one.

The company's official blog explained the purpose behind their new policy, "Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you're signed in, we may combine information you've 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."

Many have opposed Google's privacy policy, including various privacy groups and members of Congress. According to Viviane Reding, the European Union Justice Commissioner, the policy violates European law.

This unification of privacy policies allows Google to collect and share the data of users of all of its products which include, Google searches, YouTube, Blogger, Google +, Maps, Gmail, Docs, Picassa and others. While Google does state in their blog post that it does not sell personal information to other companies, the information still can be handed over to government, due to a provision of the Patriot Act.

Why is Google doing this? Well, the company has said this will improve the user experience. It will help make web searches better, provide a better ad experience and by syncing all of their data, could even remind you about a meeting you are late for, based on the events in your calendar and current location. That sounds a bit creepy and Big Brotherish to me, but whatever floats your boat.

So should this be something to be concerned about? Or even if it doesn't concern you, perhaps you'd rather not have Google tracking your activity online.

If you don't want your online activity tracked by Google, one option would be to stop using Google. But if you rather not go that route, there are a few other options. You can log out of Google when doing your searches. You will still be tracked by IP address, but your searches won't be linked to your Google user account.

Another thing you can do is turn off your search history in Google. This is simple and takes a few steps. If you are logged into Google, just go to www.google.com/history. Next click on "Remove all Web History" and "OK." This process removes the history of all the sites you have visited and searches performed.

However, disabling the Web History in your Google account will not stop Google from "gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes," says the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF, in a post explaining how to disable the Web History in Google mentions that information gathered and stored can still be "sought by law enforcement." If Web History is disabled, the records will be partially anonymized after 18 months.

The EFF has some tips on how to protect your search privacy, available in their white paper, "Six Tips to Protect Your Search Privacy." You can read more by visiting their site at www.eff.org.

CJ Castillo writes about geeky stuff for the Victoria Advocate. You can contact her at cjcastillo@vicad.com. Please send all correspondence c/o Victoria Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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