4 Tips to Manage Privacy on Google

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Google recently rolled out its new privacy policy, condensing into one more than 60 former privacy policies across Google products, such as Gmail, GChat, Picassa, Google+, and YouTube.

As part of the change, Google now shares the information it has about you among all of its services, creating one profile of you rather than separate logs for each Google service you use.

These changes have privacy experts concerned: The new policy reportedly breaches European law and 36 U.S. attorneys general have said Google's changes are an invasion of privacy.

But there are steps you can take to ensure your information and online activity remain private, from editing your online search history to taking your GChat conversations offline. Here's what you need to know.

1. Clear Your YouTube Browsing History

When you visit YouTube, while logged into your Google account, it keeps a record of the videos you view. To clear your YouTube viewing history, take the following steps:

First, sign into your Google Dashboard, home to most of your Google privacy settings. Scroll to the bottom and click "Sign into Dashboard," then enter your username and password.

From your dashboard, scroll to the bottom and select "Manage privacy settings" under the YouTube section. Then, click the link to your name in the top-right and find "History" from the scrolling menu on the left. Click it.

Visit both the "History" and "Search History" tabs to either clear all viewing and search history data, or to pause it.

[Google's New Privacy Policy Highlights Need for Better Settings]

2. Remove Web History and Turn Off Search History Personalization

Google's search history personalization bases your search results on your past search activity on Google. This means that if you recently searched for restaurants in San Francisco, then searched for car rental companies, Google is more likely to return results for rental companies in San Francisco.

To disable history-based search customizations while you're signed into your Google account, you need to remove all your Web history. (You can also choose to remove only individual items, as well as to pause your Web History.)

To do this, visit google.com/history and either select individual webpages to remove, or select "Remove all Web History." From here, you can also pause your Web history if you temporarily don't want Google to track the pages you're visiting.

3. Opt Out of Custom Ads

Google uses a cookie that it installs on your browser to store information about your searches and browsing habits, regardless of whether you've turned off or paused your Web history. You can view the categories it believes you're interested in, and the inferred demographics that Google has associated with your cookie, by logging in and visiting the Ads Preferences section on Google.

From that page, you can choose to remove incorrect categories or add new ones. Or, if you no longer want Google to associate interests and demographic categories with you, you can opt out of customized Google Display Network ads entirely.

From the Ads Preferences page, click "Opt out" on the left-side menu and click the blue "Opt out" button on the page that follows.

When you opt out, Google disables the cookie associated with your browser and extends your preference to third-party advertisers, too.

[4 Google Social Search Tips for Control and Privacy]

4. Log Out of Google Accounts

While this isn't something you're able to do for every Google application, it does guarantee that Google isn't associating your activity with your account: Log out of your Google Account before you browse or search.

Here are some applications this will work for: Google Maps, Google search, YouTube and Google News. Do note that if you have not deleted your cookies, Google still could be tracking you even when you're logged out.

Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. E-mail Kristin at kburnham@cio.com.

This story, "4 Tips to Manage Privacy on Google" was originally published by CIO.

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