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I'm one of candobetter.net's editors. I don't know all that much about the internet and maybe some of what I have understood is wrong, but I'm going to put this out here for discussion.
Targeted ad in my gmail box
A couple of days ago I found an ad from a health insurance company that was aimed at immigrants to Australia seeking to comply with Australian regulations for new immigrants. It turned out that it was sent to me by google because their study of my email had led them to believe that I might be a good target for this kind of advertising. They added that, if I didn't like the ad (I dislike unsolicited, invasive ads on principle), I could view and manage my 'ads preferences' and block this particular advertiser if I did not wish to receive more ads from him.
Although I had realised that gmail could be viewed by others, I had naively believed that gmail would not actually read or monitor my emails so closely that they could try to tailor advertising to my profile.
Is Google automatically shrinking my search options?
For some time, also, I had been bothered by google search's limitation on my searches to the English language and an unsought preferencing for www.google.com.au. Since I read several languages and frequently search on foreign sites, it bothered me that my searches were being so arbitrarily restricted and without any say-so from me.
Maybe a year or two ago I realised it was hard to get out of www.google.com.au. I seemed to lose that precious access to the many different perspectives of different countries of the world which had been mine from about 1998 or so.
I felt like I was being corralled.
I had also begun for some time to wonder if, when I did a search on google, I was getting results like anyone else, or if these results were being filtered for me specially. As a researcher I am far more interested in getting a wide take on what is out there rather than having my own prejudices catered to (with the exception of unsolicited ads in my email boxes, where my preference is for no ads, period, as they say in the US).
Google doesn't recognise multilingual clients?
I also wanted to ask why it had become difficult to access other languages. There used to be an option that you could select to do a search for information in any language. This has now disappeared or become inaccessible to me.
Unfortunately, google users have to write a snail mail letter to some place in the United States if they want to ask Google anything about their privacy practices. Frankly I would like the answer more quickly. So, instead, I am writing this article. Maybe I will get more information and ideas from other people and maybe Google will respond to this article.
Ultimately, I was reassured when I went to look at my profile and other information that Google has compiled on me (from this computer at any rate). They had got just about everything wrong, from my name and my sex to the state that I live in, and they seemed to have overlooked my chief interests - or maybe my chief interests simply are not that remunerative in the commercial sense, so they don't get picked up.
I like Google. I'm really impressed at what they have achieved and at the services they provide, but I am now looking at other options for emails.
Last modified: 1 March 2012 (view archived versions)
There are many different ways for you to use our services – to search for and share information, to communicate with other people or to create new content. When you share information with us, for example by creating a #toc-terms-account">Google Account, we can make those services even better – to show you more relevant search results and ads, to help you connect with people or to make sharing with others quicker and easier. As you use our services, we want you to be clear how we’re using information and the ways in which you can protect your privacy.
- What information we collect and why we collect it.
- How we use that information.
- The choices we offer, including how to access and update information.
We’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible, but if you’re not familiar with terms, such as cookies, IP addresses, pixel tags and browsers, then read about these #toc-terms">key terms first. Your privacy matters to Google, so whether you are new to Google or a long-time user, please do take the time to get to know our practices – and if you have any questions, contact us.
Information that we collect
We collect information to provide better services to all of our users – from basics, such as which language you speak to more complex things, such as which ads you’ll find most useful or the people who matter most to you online.
We collect information in two ways:
Information that you give us. For example, many of our services require you to sign up for a Google Account. When you do, we’ll ask for #toc-terms-personal-info">personal information, such as your name, email address, telephone number or credit card number. If you want to take full advantage of the sharing features that we offer, we might also ask you to create a publicly visible Google Profile, which may include your name and photo.
Information that we get from your use of our services. We may collect information about the services that you use and how you use them, such as when you visit a website that uses our advertising services or you view and interact with our ads and content. This information includes:
We may collect device-specific information (such as your hardware model, operating system version, unique device identifiers and mobile network information, including phone number). Google may associate your device identifiers or phone number with your Google Account.
When you use our services or view content provided by Google, we may automatically collect and store certain information in #toc-terms-server-logs">server logs. This may include:
- details of how you used our service, such as your search queries.
- telephony log information, such as your phone number, calling-party number, forwarding numbers, time and date of calls, duration of calls, SMS routing information and types of calls.
- #toc-terms-ip">Internet protocol address.
- device event information, such as crashes, system activity, hardware settings, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and referral URL.
- cookies that may uniquely identify your browser or your Google Account.
When you use a location-enabled Google service, we may collect and process information about your actual location, such as GPS signals sent by a mobile device. We may also use various technologies to determine location, such as sensor data from your device that may, for example, provide information on nearby Wi-Fi access points and mobile towers.
Unique application numbers
Certain services include a unique application number. This number and information about your installation (for example, the operating system type and application version number) may be sent to Google when you install or uninstall that service or when that service periodically contacts our servers, such as for automatic updates.
We may collect and store information (including personal information) locally on your device, using mechanisms such as browser web storage (including HTML 5) and application data caches.
Cookies and anonymous identifiers
How we use information that we collect
We use the information that we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones and to protect Google and our users. We also use this information to offer you tailored content – such as giving you more relevant search results and ads.
We may use the name that you provide for your Google Profile across all of the services we offer that require a Google Account. In addition, we may replace past names associated with your Google Account, so that you are represented consistently across all our services. If other users already have your email or other information that identifies you, we may show them your publicly visible Google Profile information, such as your name and photo.
When you contact Google, we may keep a record of your communication to help resolve any issues that you might be facing. We may use your email address to inform you about our services, such as letting you know about upcoming changes or improvements.
We use information collected from cookies and other technologies, like #toc-terms-pixel">pixel tags, to improve your user experience and the overall quality of our services. For example, by saving your language preferences, we’ll be able to provide you our services in your preferred language. When showing you tailored ads, we will not associate a cookie or anonymous identifier with sensitive categories, such as those based on race, religion, sexual orientation or health.
We may combine personal information from one service with information, including personal information, from other Google services – for example, to make it easier to share things with people you know. We will not combine DoubleClick cookie information with personally identifiable information unless we have your opt-in consent.
Google processes personal information on our servers in many countries around the world. We may process your personal information on a server located outside the country where you live.
Transparency and choice
People have different privacy concerns. Our goal is to be clear about what information we collect, so that you can make meaningful choices about how it is used. For example, you can:
- Review and control certain types of information tied to your Google Account by using Google Dashboard.
- View and edit your ad preferences, such as which categories might interest you, using the Ad Preferences Manager. You can also opt out of certain Google advertising services here.
- Use our editor to see and adjust how your Google Profile appears to particular individuals.
- Control who you share information with.
- Take information out of many of our services.
You may also set your browser to block all cookies, including cookies associated with our services, or to indicate when a cookie is being set by us. However, it’s important to remember that many of our services may not function properly if your cookies are disabled. For example, we may not remember your language preferences.
Information that you share
Many of our services let you share information with others. Remember that when you share information publicly, it may be indexable by search engines, including Google. Our services provide you with different options for sharing and removing your content.
Accessing and updating your personal information
Whenever you use our services, we aim to provide you with access to your personal information. If that information is wrong, we strive to give you ways to update it quickly or to delete it – unless we have to keep that information for legitimate business or legal purposes. When updating your personal information, we may ask you to verify your identity before we can act on your request.
We may reject requests that are unreasonably repetitive, require disproportionate technical effort (for example, developing a new system or fundamentally changing an existing practice), risk the privacy of others or would be extremely impractical (for instance, requests concerning information residing on backup tapes).
Where we can provide information access and correction, we will do so free of charge, except where it would require a disproportionate effort. We aim to maintain our services in a manner that protects information from accidental or malicious destruction. Because of this, after you delete information from our services, we may not immediately delete residual copies from our active servers and may not remove information from our backup systems.
Information that we share
We do not share personal information with companies, organisations and individuals outside Google unless one of the following circumstances applies:
With your consent
We will share personal information with companies, organisations or individuals outside Google when we have your consent to do so. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any #toc-terms-sensitive-info">sensitive personal information.
With domain administrators
If your Google Account is managed for you by a domain administrator (for example, for Google Apps users) then your domain administrator and resellers who provide user support to your organisation will have access to your Google Account information (including your emails and other data). Your domain administrator may be able to:
- view statistics regarding your account, such as statistics regarding applications that you install.
- change your account password.
- suspend or terminate your account access.
- access or retain information stored as part of your account.
- receive your account information in order to satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.
- restrict your ability to delete or edit information or privacy settings.
For external processing
For legal reasons
We will share personal information with companies, organisations or individuals outside Google if we have a belief in good faith that access, use, preservation or disclosure of the information is reasonably necessary to:
- meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.
- enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations.
- detect, prevent or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues.
- protect against harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, our users or the public, as required or permitted by law.
We may share aggregated, #toc-terms-info">non-personally identifiable information publicly and with our partners, such as publishers, advertisers or connected sites. For example, we may share information publicly to show trends about the general use of our services.
We work hard to protect Google and our users from unauthorised access to or unauthorised alteration, disclosure or destruction of information that we hold. In particular:
- We encrypt many of our services using SSL.
- We offer you two-step verification when you access your Google Account and a Safe Browsing feature in Google Chrome.
- We review our information collection, storage and processing practices, including physical security measures, to guard against unauthorised access to systems.
- We restrict access to personal information to Google employees, contractors and agents who need to know that information in order to process it for us and who are subject to strict contractual confidentiality obligations. They may be disciplined or their contract terminated if they fail to meet these obligations.
Specific product practices
The following notices explain specific privacy practices with respect to certain Google products and services that you may use: