Google Bows to European Law, Changes Privacy Policy

Google released a new plain language version of its Privacy Policy on Friday in order to comply with European privacy laws.

In a blog post, Google’s director of privacy legal EMEA William Malcolm wrote about the site’s “commitment” to abiding by the standards set forth in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The blog states, “We’ve been working on our compliance efforts for over eighteen months, and ahead of the new law coming into effect, here’s an update on some of the key steps we’ve taken.”

In the section dedicated to transparency, Malcolm wrote that Google came out with a new Privacy Policy that includes “clearer language” and “more detail” about how users can manage their information. The guide for users now includes photos and videos. Malcolm noted, however, while there are no actual changes to the Privacy Policy itself, it will now be explained in a way that more people can comprehend:

Although we’re taking these steps to make our Privacy Policy easier to understand, it’s important to note that nothing is changing about your current settings or how your information is processed. You’ll continue to have granular control over the data you share with us when you use our services, but with clearer explanations.

In a YouTube video released ahead of the new Privacy Policy, Google explained why it collects data to begin with. According to the video, Google uses users’ information to “customize your results and improve our services for everybody.” In the example, if users search for mountain biking, they are given results based on their searches, the results other users received when they searched for the same phrase, and results catered to the particular user’s location. The video also claims it may also show ads in the future related to mountain biking, but notes that users have the ability to change their ad settings.

“And when we use your information to personalize the ads you see, we don’t share anything with advertisers that personally identifies you,” the video states. “So your personal information is safe with us.”

The Privacy Policy explains that Google collects information that is either provided to them directly (such as your name, email, phone number, YouTube comments, and documents in Google Docs) or collected while using services provided by Google (such as browser data, search terms, browsing history when linked to a Google account, location information while using Google’s services, and YouTube videos watched). The Privacy Policy also notes that if people use Google’s services to make phone calls, the company “may collect telephony log information such as your phone number, calling-party number, receiving-party number, forwarding numbers, time and date of calls and messages, duration of calls, routing information and types of calls.”

Google’s Privacy Policy explains that Activity Controls help users “[d]ecide what types of activity that you’d like saved in your account. For example, you can turn on Location History if you want traffic predictions for your daily commute, or you can save your YouTube Watch History to get better video suggestions.” Ad settings allow users to “[m]anage your preferences about the ads shown to you on Google and on sites and apps that partner with Google to show ads. You can modify your interests, choose whether your personal information is used to make ads more relevant to you, and turn on or off certain advertising services.”

Google’s Privacy Policy also details how users can delete their information.

In addition to trying to make the Privacy Policy easier to understand, Google’s blog post also said the platform added an option called “Family Link” to allow parents to control how their children use Google and its products. As the blog notes:

Through Family Link, parents can create a Google Account for their child and are required to provide consent for certain processing of their child’s data. Family Link also allows parents to set certain digital ground rules on their child’s Android device—like approving or blocking apps, keeping an eye on screen time, or remotely locking their child’s device. We plan to evolve Family Link’s functionality over time, working closely with parents and advocacy groups.

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