February 2012 Archives

Prepare for Google's Privacy Policy Shift

On Thursday, March 1st, Google's new unified privacy policy goes into effect. Previously, all Google services maintained separate silos of data operating under separate privacy policies. This is no longer the case. Google is now unifying it's data and, ultimately, building rich stores of data about you. Below are a few actions you can take to mitigate the amount and type of data Google will have access to after the policy change goes into effect.

1. Do not perform Google Searches while signed into your account.

This is the simplest way to ensure Google does not capture search history associated with your user ID/profile. As an alternative, keep your Google account signed in on one browser (e.g. Firefox) and use another browser operating under privacy protection mode (e.g. Chrome's Incognito Mode) to conduct searches. This is not fool proof -- google can certainly be smart enough to identify signed in sessions and non-signed in sessions originating from the same IP address...but it's a start.

Please note all steps below assume you are signed into your Google account

2. Remove your Google History

If this is already disabled, you will see two buttons that read "No Thanks" and "Enabled Web History". Simply click "No thanks" and pat yourself on the back for being smart about your search privacy.

If web history is enabled:
  • Click the button says "View History"
  • Click "Remove All Web History"

Doing this automatically stops the future collection of web history. If you ever wish to resume history collection, simply click the "Resume" button.

3. Remove your YouTube History
  • Click on "YouTube" in the toolbar at the top of the page
  • On the right of the page, click your username and select "Video Manager"
  • On the left side of the page, click the "History" button
  • Click the "Clear Viewing History" button, confirm your choice when the pop-up displays
  • Refresh the page/click the "History" button again
  • Finally, click "Pause Viewing History"
4. Disable Google Chat/Talk History
  • In Gmail, click on the cog/wheel in the upper right corner
  • Click Mail Settings
  • Click Chat
  • Ensure "Never save chat" history is enabled

5. Remove old e-mail from Google

Navigate to https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#all/p99999 and look at the date on the e-mails, these are the oldest e-mails stored in your Google Account.Take a walk through memory lane...Scary, huh?

To remove these e-mails from Google Servers:
  • Click the cog/wheel in the upper right corner of Gmail
  • Select "Mail Settings"
  • Select "Forwarding and POP/IMAP"
  • Click "Enable IMAP"
  • Download a mail client such as Thunderbird, Outlook, Apple Mail, etc
  • Follow directions to setup mail client: http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&ctx=mail&answer=75726
    • Using the mail client, create a local email storage file= such as an outlook PST or a Thunderbird local folder
    • Download all e-mails from Google to your local storage
    • Delete all e-mails from Google
    • Repeat this every month, ensuring only the last six months of e-mail stay on Google's Servers

6. Android Phone - Web Browser

  • Open your Web Browser
  • Click the Menu Key on your phone
  • Select "More"
  • Select "Settings"
  • Clear your history, cache, and location access.
  • Suggest disabling "Enabled location" to prevent future websites from accessing your location.

Security Best Practices for your Google Account

While not related to the impending privacy changes, the follow steps are two important functions to enable on your Google account.

7. Google Mail Connection

  • In the Gmail settings, click on the "General" settings tab
  • Ensure "Browser Connection" has "Always use https" enabled

8. 2-Step verification

2-Step verification is similar to what major banking websites are now using. This service provides stronger security protection on your account. The process is very simple: Once activated, you will need to verify the device(s) you frequently sign into your google account from. Your home computer, your work computer, your iPad, etc. To do this, Google will send you an SMS text message with a unique code. You will be required to enter both your password and this code to verify the device you are signing into Google with. This will prevent people from accessing your account from unauthorized devices/computers.

To enable: