Recently, Google has introduced changes to Google Account that Chrome users may be reluctant to accept. If you’ve received a message from Google alerting you that “Some new features for your Google Account” are available, and you find yourself reluctant to click Accept, this article may help you understand what you’d be agreeing to.
Essentially, the changes have to do with the way Google uses personal information it’s collected about you from the free services you use, mainly Chrome but also Maps, YouTube and more. Google says they want to make these products more useful to you, in large part by sending you targeted advertisements based on your browsing, viewing and shopping habits.
Much to their credit, Google has been very transparent about the types of information it collects; you can view what it knows about you from within your Google Account settings. Specifically check the My Activity section of your Google Account, where you can view your Google history in one place.
The new changes made by Google offer users additional controls for what types of ads they’ll see around the internet. There are also some changes in the way Google organizes your collected information. And to be clear: You are free to turn on or off at any time these new options from within your Google Account settings.
If you have found that you already don’t mind having your information collected so that websites can send you specific ads that may interest you, opting in to these new features is a better idea than not, because they offer increased control over what you see.
You may have noticed that when you were researching online for the best vacuum cleaner to purchase, you appreciated seeing ads for vacuum cleaners. However, at the very moment you actually purchased a vacuum cleaner, you dropped out of the consumer group defined as “people in the market for a vacuum cleaner.” And it is at this exact point in time that the ads likely went from helpful to completely irrelevant or even annoying.
Google lets you stop seeing such ads by clicking the close box on the ad to put an end to its following you around the web right then and there. But you can now control the types of ads you see by going to your account’s ad preferences page:
- From any Google page, click your account profile photo
- Click My Account
- Under Personal info & privacy, click Ads Settings
If you haven’t opted in to the new features, you can read about them right there. Until you click I Agree you will not opt in and your Google Account settings will stay as they were.
The Ads Personalization setting currently lets Google use data in your account to tailor ads that appear in Google products. It’s worth checking to see if you have unknowingly enabled that feature already: just click Manage Ads Settings from the Ads Settings page and see if the toggle button is switched on. It is here that you can also read detailed information about how Ads Personalization works.
Note that settings apply across all of your signed-in devices and across all Google services. You can change them any time in My Account.
Google says it collects the following types of information about you:
Things you do
This category is essentially:
- Things you search for
- Websites you visit
- Places you look up in Maps
- Videos you watch on YouTube
- Ads you click on
- Your location
- Device information
- IP address and cookie data
Things you create
Google “stores and protects” your created content, including:
- Emails you send and receive on Gmail
- Contacts you add
- Calendar events
- Photos and videos you upload
- Docs, Sheets, and Slides on Drive
Things that make you “you”
Basic info about you is collected, including:
- Email address and password
- Phone number
Whatever you decide to accept about the new ways Google wants to track your browsing activity and offer products, do keep in mind that Google does not sell its users’ personal information to anyone.
When all is said and done, it seems that users who allow Google to personalize ads for them will more often than not enhance their web browsing experience, not compromise it. And by stating in detail what, precisely, the company is tracking—and more importantly, how to easily opt out of it—Google still seems committed to offering good-faith, relevant services that users should feel comfortable with giving a try.