Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) is a dangerous weapon. With it, you can easily convince users of a particular ecosystem they are being duped into handing over their precious information. To help combat such FUD, every company goes out of their way (or should go out of their way) to offer up some semblance of assurance they aren't as nefarious as the rumors would have them be.
Google is no exception. In fact, Google might well be the rule to this. Every morning I awake to either a news piece, Facebook post, or email proclaiming that Google has, yet again, gone about the business of prying.
To combat this, Google has placed privacy into the hands of the end users. This is a very good and a very bad thing.
Why the good?
Any time a company allows its users to take control of their privacy, it should be considered a good thing. Now all Google users can:
- Determine how people connect to you
- Set what is automatically shared
- Configure what is visible on your Google+ profile
- Manage shared endorsements
- Manage what you share on Youtube
- Make ads more relevant (or opt out of interest-based ads)
- and so much more
This gives you more control over your Google+ account than you've ever had... all in one convenient location. Now you are in control of what is seen, shared, and saved. You... not Google.
Why the bad?
Thing is, when you give people the tools they need to enhance the privacy of their accounts... those tools have to be used in order to be effective. This places the onus on the individual to take the time to walk through the tool and evaluate each and every setting. Google has done this with a simple popup message that most will dismiss.
That is a mistake... but an issue we all know to be true. Most users won't take the time to wade through the Google Privacy Checkup. Again... mistake. It's not like Google has made it difficult or time consuming. Users only need head over to the Privacy Checkup page and walk through the easy to use wizard (Figure A).
The Privacy Checkup walks you through all of the privacy settings Google deems important to end-users. Each setting is related to what Google either stores or displays. With each setting, you can enable or disable—simple as that. Say you don't want people to be able to connect via a phone number associated with your account. Easy: Go to Help people connect to you and then uncheck the box associated with your phone number.
Do you prefer to keep your Youtube channel private? Simple... go to Manage what you share on Youtube and disable anything you want.
What about Google Photos? The Privacy Checkup has you covered.
What about the saving of web and app activity, location history, device information, voice and audio activity, Youtube search/watch activity? With the new Privacy Checkup, you can turn it all off.
Much of which is offered up by the Google Privacy Checkup goes a long way to debunk a good portion of the FUD. You can now tailor your Google experience to better meet your privacy needs. And once you've walked through the standard checkup, you can then continue on to the advanced settings and deal with such items as connected devices, account permissions, check app passwords, and two-step authentication.
With the checkup complete, you can go to your account dashboard and keep tabs on nearly every aspect of your Google account (sign in and security, personal info and privacy, and account preferences). It's in your control.
Anyone that uses Google (via Android, iOS, ChromeOS, or Chrome) should consider the Privacy Checkup mandatory and not optional. The privacy of your Google account is now in your hands... use it or lose it.
Have you walked through the Privacy Checkup? Do you feel is enough to assuage the FUD and fear that tends to hover around Google? If not, what would you like to see the company do?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.