Google consolidates user data with new privacy policy

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google's launching a new privacy policy, bringing together all the information it holds on individual users into a single place.

The company currently has more than 70 different privacy policies for its various product offerings - 'somewhat complicated', as Alma Whitten, the company's director of privacy, product and engineering concedes on the company blog.

"While we’ve had to keep a handful of separate privacy notices for legal and other reasons, we’re consolidating more than 60 into our main Privacy Policy," she says.

"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."

However, the change will also mean that Google consolidates all the information it holds on individual users, whatever the source. The main change comes to users with Google Accounts.

"If you’re signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services," says Whitten.

The company promises that it won't sell users' personal information, nor share it unless ordered to by a court. But it will use the data to personilize search results to take account of a user's interests - and  better target ads.

Some services, such as Google Books, Wallet and Chfrome, will retain their own privacy policies, either because of industry-specific privacy laws or because the company feels they need a greater level of detail.

Google's being very careful over privacy these days, following an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission last year. In October, it agreed to allow the FTC to monitor its privacy practices for the next 20 years.

The new policy will take effect globally from March 1, and Google's notifying users via email and a notice on its homepage. The new terms of service are here.