Google simplifies security and privacy with new account hub

Many of us are dependent on Google apps like Gmail and Photos, but Google has a rep for being less than transparent on security and privacy, especially in Europe. Now, the search giant has put all the ways you can protect yourself into one big hub in an attempt to give you more control. The new "Accounts" page shows sign-in, device, ad and personal settings at a glance, and also has a pair of new wizards to help you review the whole shebang. Even if you don't have a Google account, it's now easier to personalize search on the net and in YouTube, how you see ads, and other settings.

For those with an account, there are three setting groups (above) used to control it. For starters, the "sign-in & security" card lets you manage how you sign in and control devices and apps. Running through the new security setup wizard will let you see and modify your passwords and two-step security controls, then verify all your phones, computers and tablets. You can also tweak apps that use Google security, many of which (if you're like me) you may have forgotten about.

The second set of settings is for privacy control. Did you know that Google can go ahead and feature your publicly shared Google+ images as a background for its products & services? Well, now you do, and Mountain View lets you tick a box if you want them to cut that out. You can also control whether Google shows your app reviews on Google Play, how you share YouTube videos and how you're served ads, to name a few other settings. The final "account preferences" card lets you change your language and input tools, adjust Google Drive storage and delete accounts or devices.

Google also revealed a new privacy policy that details what data it collects from you, how it uses it, how it targets you with ads and what you can do to control all that. So why all the changes? Google's under pressure from governments to change how it handles privacy, and has also been criticized for its scattered-all-over security settings. It said that "today's launches are just the latest in our ongoing efforts to protect you and your information on Google," and added that "there's much more to come." Whether or not the tweaks assuage its critics remains to be seen, but anything companies like Google can do to simplify security and privacy is fine by us.