By Sam Grobart
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Updated: 2:24Â a.m.Â Sunday,Â MarchÂ 4,Â 2012
Published: 12:13Â a.m.Â Sunday,Â MarchÂ 4,Â 2012
The company has been telling users of its services â€” search, YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps and Google Docs, among others â€” that information it collects about users will be compiled in a single dossier for its use.
What does that mean to users, and what should they do about it?
Until Thursday, a record of a user’s activity on Google’s search engine was kept apart from the record of that user’s activity on other Google properties.
Google’s search engine might have known a user was looking up sites about Jamaica, but it was not giving that information to YouTube or Google Maps, just as those sites were not sharing that user’s activity with Google Search.
Now it is sharing that information.
That is the big change.
If you have a Google account, your activity on one Google property is available to other Google properties.
Some people do not like this, because Google’s search engine is used for lots of activities, some of them personal, financial or medical.
It is one thing to search for information about, say, a particular ointment. It may be jarring, however, to go to YouTube later and see suggested toe fungus videos.
If you would rather not have all of your Google-related activity sloshing around the “Don’t Be Evil” empire, remedies are available. Some are simple, others laborious:
â– You can delete your search history and prevent Google from using it for advertising purposes in the future.
To do this, sign in to your Google account and go to google.com/history.
You will see two buttons: “Pause” and “Remove All Web History.” If you click on “Remove all Web History,” you have not only deleted what you have looked up in the past, you have also turned off any tracking of your search history by Google in the future.
â– If you really want to keep your activity on various Google sites segregated from one another, you could set up a separate user account for each service â€” one for Gmail, one for YouTube and so on.
The problem is that you will need a different email address for each account, and managing all of them could be annoying, particularly if you log into one Google service and click on a link to another without first having logged out and re-entered under a different account.
(Even describing that procedure was time-consuming; imagine having to do it all the time.)
â– If you do not want Google to use your search history to help determine what ads the company shows you, you can opt out by going to google.com/ads/preferences.
Doing so, however, affects only the computer you are using. You must perform the opt-out procedure on every other computer you use.
This will not affect how Google sites share your activity with one another, nor will it reduce the number of advertisements you see.
But it will make those ads less relevant â€” or less creepy â€” depending on your feelings about the issue.