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Protecting Your Privacy Amid Google Policy Changes

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Many Google users are nervous about the tech giant's changes to its privacy policy, set to take effect on Thursday.

Google has already been collecting bits of personal information from its various services, but soon it will combine it all to produce more targeted ads.

So let's say you are signed into Gmail and you decide to watch a video on YouTube. Then you check out your friend's vacation photos on Picasa. Well, Google will now combine all of that data to create a single, fuller portrait of you for advertisers.

The change is causing a stir online and around the world. In the U.S., the National Association of Attorneys General expressed "strong concerns" in a letter to Google CEO Larry Page. It reads in part, "The new policy forces these consumers to allow information across all of these products to be shared, without giving them the proper ability to opt out."

The European Union declared it would investigate whether the new policy violates European law and urged Google to postpone the changes. Google responded that it believed the policy complied with the law, and the company would still go forward on March 1.

Cecilia Kang, national technology reporter for The Washington Post, tells host Michel Martin that the uproar isn't enough to make Google reconsider. "For Google, this is a business decision," she says.

For those who are concerned, here are some measures you can take to boost your Web privacy:

1. Act anonymously. You don't have to log in to watch YouTube or do a Google search.

2. Erase your search history. The Electronic Frontier Foundation offers a step-by-step guide. Feb. 29 is the last day to do this.

3. Adjust your ad preferences. You can edit the categories of ads that Google sends you, or download a browser plug in that disables the DoubleClick cookie, which is Google's advertising cookie.

4. Use a different search engine, like DuckDuckGo or Yahoo!, if you are logged into Google.

5. Select stricter browser settings. Use private modes. Mozilla Firefox users can go to their settings, click on the "Privacy" tab, and check off the box "Tell Websites I Don't Want To Be Tracked."

6. Terminate your Google account. But before you do so, the Data Liberation Front can help you export all your personal information.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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