By Sudarshana Banerjee
Google says it can make search better— by figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink. Google also intends to provide more relevant ads this way.
The changes have raised questions on privacy. One of the ways our anonymity on the Web is preserved is because we leave different bits of information on different Web sites. By Google combining this information across its service board, the company has a profile of our Web behavior which is much more detailed.
Yet another concern is that Google may share this information externally without our permission in very limited circumstances like say when presented with a valid court order. The portmanteau of information may make it easier for governments to crackdown on dissidents say in Tibet or Myanmar.
Google says it believes in data liberation, and we are of course free to use non-Google services. Besides, the sharing of information across Google services will happen only if we are signed in.
Last modified: October 20, 2011 (view archived versions)
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Information we collect and how we use it
We may collect the following types of information:
- Log information – When you access Google services via a browser, application or other client our servers automatically record certain information. These server logs may include information such as your web request, your interaction with a service, Internet Protocol address, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and one or more cookies that may uniquely identify your browser or your account.
- User communications – When you send email or other communications to Google, we may retain those communications in order to process your inquiries, respond to your requests and improve our services. When you send and receive SMS messages to or from one of our services that provides SMS functionality, we may collect and maintain information associated with those messages, such as the phone number, the wireless carrier associated with the phone number, the content of the message, and the date and time of the transaction. We may use your email address to communicate with you about our services.
- Location data – Google offers location-enabled services, such as Google Maps and Latitude. If you use those services, Google may receive information about your actual location (such as GPS signals sent by a mobile device) or information that can be used to approximate a location (such as a cell ID).
- Unique application number – Certain services, such as Google Toolbar, include a unique application number that is not associated with your account or you. This number and information about your installation (e.g., operating system type, version number) may be sent to Google when you install or uninstall that service or when that service periodically contacts our servers (for example, to request automatic updates to the software).
In addition to the above, we may use the information we collect to:
- Provide, maintain, protect, and improve our services (including advertising services) and develop new services; and
- Protect the rights or property of Google or our users.
If we use this information in a manner different than the purpose for which it was collected, then we will ask for your consent prior to such use.
Google processes personal information on our servers in the United States of America and in other countries. In some cases, we process personal information outside your own country.
You can use the Google Dashboard to review and control the information stored in your Google Account.
Most browsers are initially set up to accept cookies, but you can reset your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, some Google features and services may not function properly if your cookies are disabled.
Google uses the DoubleClick advertising cookie on AdSense partner sites and certain Google services to help advertisers and publishers serve and manage ads across the web. You can view and manage your ads preferences associated with this cookie by accessing the Ads Preferences Manager. In addition, you may choose to opt out of the DoubleClick cookie at any time by using DoubleClick’s opt-out cookie.
Google only shares personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google in the following limited circumstances:
- We have your consent. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information.
- We have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request, (b) enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations thereof, (c) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, or (d) protect against harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public as required or permitted by law.
We take appropriate security measures to protect against unauthorized access to or unauthorized alteration, disclosure or destruction of data. These include internal reviews of our data collection, storage and processing practices and security measures, including appropriate encryption and physical security measures to guard against unauthorized access to systems where we store personal data.
We restrict access to personal information to Google employees, contractors and agents who need to know that information in order to process it on our behalf. These individuals are bound by confidentiality obligations and may be subject to discipline, including termination and criminal prosecution, if they fail to meet these obligations.
Accessing and updating personal information
When you use Google services, we make good faith efforts to provide you with access to your personal information and either to correct this data if it is inaccurate or to delete such data at your request if it is not otherwise required to be retained by law or for legitimate business purposes. We ask individual users to identify themselves and the information requested to be accessed, corrected or removed before processing such requests, and we may decline to process requests that are unreasonably repetitive or systematic, require disproportionate technical effort, jeopardize the privacy of others, or would be extremely impractical (for instance, requests concerning information residing on backup tapes), or for which access is not otherwise required. In any case where we provide information access and correction, we perform this service free of charge, except if doing so would require a disproportionate effort. Because of the way we maintain certain services, after you delete your information, residual copies may take a period of time before they are deleted from our active servers and may remain in our backup systems. Please review the service Help Centers for more information.
Google complies with the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework and the U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor Framework as set forth by the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the collection, use, and retention of personal information from European Union member countries and Switzerland. Google has certified that it adheres to the Safe Harbor Privacy Principles of notice, choice, onward transfer, security, data integrity, access, and enforcement. To learn more about the Safe Harbor program, and to view Google’s certification, please visit the Safe Harbor website.
The following statements explain specific privacy practices with respect to certain products and services:
- +1 Button
- Chrome Frame
- Google Music
- Google Notebook
- Google TV
- Google Web Toolkit
- Location Service in Firefox
- Safe Browsing
- Translator Toolkit
- Web Accelerator
- Web History