January 25, 2012, 11:10 AM

Google adopts a new privacy policy as it prepares to connect more consumer data

Overall, the changes could allow retailers to better target ads to shoppers.

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Google Inc. says it will introduce a single privacy policy in March that replaces at least 60 separate documents that cover the various products, such as Gmail and YouTube, operated by the search provider. The move is another example of how Google is integrating and using data collection from those various properties—an effort that could make it easier for retailers to better target ads at consumers across multiple web-enabled devices.

The new privacy policy takes effect March 1, Google says. A link on Google’s home page sends consumers to a page that explains the policy. Google says that the new privacy policy is more readable than the previous ones. Google promises not to sell information from its users to other companies.

“The main change is for users with Google Accounts,” writes Alma Whitten, Google’s director of privacy, product and engineering, in a blog post. “Our new privacy policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

The change in the privacy policy, and the emphasis on combining information, comes less than a month after Google announced that it would include postings, photos and other information from its fledgling Google+ social network in search results. Experts say that means retailers need to beef up their presence on Google+  and expand their circles on the social network.

Whitten didn’t specially address how the new privacy policy might affect online retailers. In its frequently-asked-questions sections that consumers could visit after following the link on Google’s home page, the search provider said that “over time you can expect to see better search results, ads and other content when you’re using Google services.”

Kevin Lee, CEO of search marketing firm Didit, said today that the policy reflects Google’s desire to tie together the various web access points used by consumers in order to better target ads. For instance, a consumer logged into Google Accounts might search for a television on his iPad—visiting product review sites along the way—and then, upon returning home at night, go onto his laptop while still logged into Google; Google could use the data from his previous activity to show him ads for TVs and related consumer electronics products.

“The most likely impact on this from a retailing perspective is the ability of Google to target ads across as many screens as the user has, based on data gained from one of the other screens,” Lee says.  “Consumers will see more relevant ads on all their devices and we as marketers will have an opportunity to place those ads there though Google."

 

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