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Image credit: Dado Ruvic / Reuters

Google updates privacy policy so you can actually understand it

It's to comply with Europe's GDPR privacy law, not to be nice.
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Dado Ruvic / Reuters

Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy laws are about to go into effect, and one of the key rules is that companies must provide "clear and transparent" notice about how your data will be used. Google has done just that, releasing its upcoming privacy policy that explains exactly how it will use your data in surprisingly easy-to-understand terms.

The search giant essentially admitted what you've suspected all along, that privacy policies are too complicated to just explain with words. As such, it has supplemented the text with videos and illustrations.

To be clear, Google hasn't changed its services or permissions, it's just making them easier to understand. Its privacy policy wasn't that hard to follow before, but the concrete examples used in the new text help. "For example, if you search for 'mountain bikes', you may see an ad for sports equipment when you're browsing a site that shows ads served by Google," one section reads. "You can control what information we use to show you ads by visiting your ad settings."

The company also improved its user controls, making it easier to "review your Google security, privacy and ad settings," it notes. For instance, there are now simple on/off switches for location history, web and app activity and YouTube search history that work across all devices signed into your account. It's also easier to browse and delete past online activity, do a security or privacy checkup, manage and mute ads and see all of the Google products you use on the Google Dashboard (which is now more mobile friendly).

Google has also added a parental consent option via a new tool called "Family Link." Parents can create a Google account for their child and must approve certain types of data processing for minors. It also allows you to block apps, track screen time and remotely lock your child's device.

As mentioned, Google has rolled out the new privacy policy to comply with GDPR, not out of the kindness of its "don't be evil" heart. Privacy-wise, Google has a leg up over most companies, as users are motivated to opt into things like location and search history to get the most out of products like Maps and YouTube.

Now, at least, it's easier to understand what they're doing with the data and, if you don't like it, to opt out. The new policy is now live, and ahead of the GDPR going into force on May 25th, Google is sending emails to every single one of its billions of users.

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