Google agrees to make its privacy policy clearer in the UK

Three years ago Google merged more than 60 privacy policies into one gargantuan document, in the hope it would be simpler and more readable for its customers around the world. Some people were skeptical of the changes and, despite Google's best efforts to explain itself, the company was pulled into an investigation with European regulators. Since then both sides have been debating back-and-forth, with Google proposing new changes and the EU's assigned taskforce asking for various revisions and improvements.

But at long last, Google seems to have finally put the problem to bed, at least in the UK. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) today announced that the search company has signed a new agreement that should make its unified privacy policy clearer and easier to understand. The document will now include detailed information about how Google processes user data, as well as what it's used for. Any "indistinct language" will be rewritten and a new section will explain how users can exercise their individual rights. The revised policy will also describe the sort of third-parties that collect "anonymous identifiers" from Google's services, and why such user information is useful to them.

But the ICO's demands don't stop there. The conditions also mean that Google has to provide earlier notice and information for "passive users," improve its guidance to employees, and redesign parts of its user account settings. The UK regulator admits that Google's current policy hasn't "resulted in substantial damage and distress" for customers, but clearly it felt there was still room for improvement. The company now has until the end of June to make the agreed changes, although there are further measures it needs to comply with over the next two years. Will this be enough to satisfy the larger European taskforce? It's not clear, but assuring Britain would certainly be a start.

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