See What Info Google Is Collecting About You

Photo: Courtesy Google.
Okay, be honest: How often do you actually read those Privacy & Terms of Service things before clicking? They're usually buried deep within an app's settings menu and are filled with clunky legalese — encouraging us to just click "accept" and hope for the best. Now, in an effort to make its privacy policies and data collection more transparent, Google has introduced a new spot for managing all of your privacy settings: My Account.

The page is broken up into three sections for ease of navigation: Sign In & Security, Personal Info & Privacy, and Account Preferences. For the security and privacy sections, you can get a quick sense of what Google is collecting on you right now, and then make tweaks as needed.

All this makes it easier than ever to switch on and off data-tracking settings in Google Search, Maps, and YouTube. Of course, it's always a trade-off between your security and your convenience. If you switch on some of these settings (say, location services) Google can often provide faster and more relevant search results or transit directions — but it also knows where you are at all times. If you switch them off, your location information and browsing habits are tracked by one less entity.

At Google's new privacy.google.com, you can read up on some frequently asked security-related questions, such as "What data does Google collect?" and "Does Google sell my personal information?" (To answer the first question: Google tracks things you search for, websites you visit, and videos you watch, among other things.)

Though the NSA has announced that it will slightly curtail its communication-gathering efforts, the effects of Snowden's revelations about data collection — by both corporations and the government — have left many squeamish. Companies such as Google and Facebook have introduced tools to make their privacy settings more user-friendly.

It certainly says something about the depth of the data being collected on us that these "user-friendly tools" are still so incredibly complex. Any way we can get it down to one security checkup, Google?

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