Yuhnke Commentary: How you can protect your privacy on Google

PHOENIX - I like to keep my private stuff private. Call me crazy! Call me a hermit! I think it's fair to assume that when I'm wasting hours on the web in the privacy of my own home, there is a certain degree of privacy that I can expect.

This week, Google implemented its long-expected privacy changes that have a lot of people upset. Should you be freaking out? I don't think so. Take some steps to protect your info, and you can rest assured that your personal life isn't out in the open for Google to sift through.

Why?

Google has a lot of sites. The Internet giant has managed to infiltrate our lives in so many ways and now it seems they own a website for just about everything. Google mail, docs, Google+, Picasa Photos, YouTube and more. The list includes more than 50 sites!

Google decided it wanted to take all of those separate privacy policies and combine them into one. They say it makes it easier and lets them personalize services for you. It seems like a neat idea! If you spent 30 minutes searching for instructions on how to build a paper airplane on Google, when you surf to YouTube that site can automatically suggest videos on the same topic.

The problem is, this data sharing between sites will also be used for advertising. It also means Google knows what you search for.  How far does this extend into your personal e-mail?  Truthfully, it shouldn't be a big surprise. After all, personalized advertising and search is Google's bread and butter. Nonetheless, it's a bit uncomfortable for many of us.

What to do?

There are a few steps you can take to help limit your online tracks and give yourself some peace of mind.

1. Clear your web history

Google tracks where you go and what you do online. This isn't new. The company keeps a record of your web history. Many people don't know that Google gives you the option to delete it. Click here to get instructions on how to do that.
 

2. Log out

Google can track you whether you're logged in or not but it's much more difficult for the company to specifically associate things with YOU if you're not logged into Google. Make sure you logout when you're not using any of their sites. Again, don't think you won't still be tracked but take this step to make sure you're not handing over your information on a silver platter every time you open your web browser.

3. Do Not Track

The 4 major web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari) have all agreed to support a new setting called "Do Not Track."  Think of it as a button that says stop saving my information!   It's hasn't been implemented yet but expect to see it soon. This will provide an easy way to block sites from collecting information about what you do on the web.

4. Stop using Google!

Last but not least, STOP USING GOOGLE! I know, ludicrous, right? I don't think I could do it but it's an option. If you don't like the way Google is doing things, stop using their service. If enough people do this it will send a message to the company. I don't see it happening but it's in the realm of possibilities. Every service that Google offers is also available somewhere else.  It's the most powerful tool us, as consumers, have.

If you don't do anything else, at least read Google's new privacy policy .  It's good to know where the company stands so you can decide where you stand on the issue.

Catch me on ABC15 Mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m. Monday through Friday. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook .

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