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New Google privacy policy takes effect

Google’s contentious new privacy policy officially takes effect Thursday, despite some objections from Canada’s privacy commissioner and others around the world.

Google insists it had users in mind when it consolidated the privacy policies for most of its more than 70 products and streamlined the text.

The main concern being raised by most critics is how Google will now start saving user information collected from all its services in one place. For example, users who log into several different services — such as Google.ca, Gmail and YouTube — will have data about all their searches and clicks stored together.

“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,” wrote Alma Whitten, Google’s director of privacy, product and engineering, in a blog post to users.

Users can stop this data consolidation from happening by staying logged out when using the search engine or YouTube, or by having separate logins for each different site.

In a letter to Google, privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said the search giant’s efforts to created a more user-friendly privacy policy was “a step in the right direction.” But she raised several concerns. For one, she said users aren’t being told enough about how to effectively opt-out of Google’s new plan.

“We would strongly encourage you to make it clearer to users that if they are uncomfortable with these new uses of information, they can create separate accounts. This is not clearly stated in your new policy,” she wrote.

“As we understand it, the policy changes do not mean that Google is collecting more information about its users than it currently does. They do, however, mean that you are going to be using the information in new ways — ways that may make some users uncomfortable.”

She also said the new privacy policy isn’t clear about how long it will take for personal information to be deleted when requested by a user.

Google is also facing heat in Europe over the new privacy policy, which France’s privacy regulator said is a violation of the European Union’s data protection rules.

“Our preliminary analysis shows that Google’s new policy does not meet the requirements of the European Directive on Data Protection,” reads a letter to Google from the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL).

“The CNIL and the EU data protection authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of data across services and have strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such processing.”

A spokeswoman for Stoddart said a response was received from Google on Wednesday afternoon and is now being reviewed.