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Coming Changes to Google’s Privacy Policy Raises Hackles of Watchdogs

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Ian Bush Ian Bush
Ian Bush is an anchor, reporter, news editor, and technology editor&nb...
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By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Google wants to do more with the information it collects about your web habits.  The search giant says the changes, coming in March, will improve your web-surfing experience.  But privacy advocates are crying foul.

Few people ever read those Internet privacy policies, but Google is trying to be explicit about its intent to link the e-mail, search, video viewing, and social data that it collects about you as you move about the Web.

“There are 60 products (owned by Google), and most people use one or more of them,” notes David Jacobs, a consumer privacy fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Say you’ve been browsing photos of cute puppies on an image search.  When you open your Gmail, the ads could suggest dog breeders or pet stores, and your next visit to YouTube (owned by Google) might spotlight fuzzy puppies.

“People should be concerned anytime they lose the ability to control their information,” says Jacobs.  “The burden has to be on the company to protect this information and to give control to users.”

But Google says there will be no way to opt out, unless you don’t sign in when using Google or YouTube.

“But that’s not an option for Gmail, and it’s not an option for anyone who has an Android phone,” Jacobs points out.

“You also have to think about what the government might want with this information,” he adds.  “Law enforcement agencies gather data from Google on search terms, and to have all this in one place makes it a lot more tempting for them, too.”

Google says whatever it collects won’t be personally identifiable — unless, of course, you are signed in with an account that contains personal information.

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