Google has pulled all of its privacy and security settings into a single hub called ‘My Account’, with the intention of making it relatively easier for users to control their personal information and what data they share. However, some experts have highlighted that the wording used throughout the module is anything but neutral.

Are Google’s New Privacy And Security Changes Positive?

On the 1st June, 2015, Google wrote a blog entitled ‘Keeping your personal information private and safe – and putting you in control’, but just how ‘in control’ does their new privacy and security tools allow you to be? The changes sub-divides the settings into three sections:

  1. The first, entitled ‘Sign-in and Security’, includes account passwords, whether or not two-step verification is switched on, and details about which of Google’s apps and other third-party services have access to your data.

  2. The second, called ‘Personal Info and Privacy’ includes details of a user’s Search and YouTube history. Whether you want the ability to delete particular queries, control location data, or wish to prevent search results and displayed ads from being personalised, this section is where you can do so.

  3. Finally, ‘Account Preferences’ includes the ability to change language settings and remove oneself completely from specific Google services, including Gmail, YouTube and the Google+ social network.

Google's New "My Account" Feature, How It Works?

Whilst Google has stated that the single hub should enable users to see, personalise and control what data is being gathered about them easily (taking on average only two and a half minutes to complete), the development has been scrutinized by some, including campaign group Privacy International. They said that they ‘cautiously welcome’ the new hub, which is more honest about what information they retain from users’, but also noted that ‘the statement and tools seem limited only to information associated with an individual’s account’. It remains to be seen if Google will be as transparent with all users (whether they have an account or not) about what information they collect.

Dr Joss Wright, researcher in privacy and internet censorship at the Oxford Internet Institute, commented, "it is a good thing that they are pushing forward these privacy settings with more centralised access, and letting them show up in search results,” however, he added, “the tone is very negative, saying 'You can do this, but why would you ever want to, you'll just be making the world worse for yourself.

He expressed his concerns about how it could come across as like a ‘sales pitch’, and commented “the entire thing is about convincing people to turn these settings on rather than off”. So what do you think? At a time when technology companies are facing increased scrutiny about how they handle EU citizens’ data, should Google be more neutral about these settings, rather than trying to persuade people to share private information?

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