Google's new privacy settings page aims to gives users more control

The move could also be an effort to comply with EU data protection demands

Google launched a site that answers important questions about privacy and security.

Google launched a site that answers important questions about privacy and security.

Google has launched a centralized hub that lets users manage the privacy and security controls of all its services, and introduced a site with information about these topics.

The hub, called My Account, is not the first effort from Google to centralize settings: in 2009, it introduced a dashboard to let users control settings on most services on one page.

On My Account, people can control settings for Search, Maps, YouTube, Gmail and other products in one place, Google said in a blog post on Monday.

It provides step-by-step guides to manage the most important Google privacy and security settings. The My Account central dashboard can also be used to turn on and off targeted advertising, location tracking as well as web and app activity history, which Google uses to serve more relevant search results. People can also control access to apps and sites they've logged into with their Google credentials.

In addition, Google launched a site that covers frequently asked security and privacy questions to explain what data Google collects and how it uses it. For example, Google states that it uses certain information from people's search queries and location for ad targeting. However, the company says it does not share personally identifiable information with advertisers unless users give it permission.

Google said it's making these moves to give people more control over their privacy and security settings, but the changes are likely a direct response to demands from European Data Protection Authorities (DPA).

DPAs have been demanding changes to the privacy settings Google introduced worldwide in 2012. Authorities in France, the U.K., Italy, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands launched formal investigations into the changes made by Google, which included the decision to combine usage data from different services, like search and YouTube. The authorities found that Google provided insufficient information for users regarding how and why their personal data was being collected.

Last year, Google sent a letter to the six data protection authorities in which it announced many measures to comply with European privacy laws, the Dutch DPA said in December.

The Dutch authority threatened the company with a €15 million (about US$16.4 million) fine if it did not comply with its demands by the end of February. However, that date passed and the Dutch authority didn't impose a fine.

Its demands include that Google ask for and obtain unambiguous consent from users to combine their data, and that Google further clarify information in its privacy policy and provide consistent information about people's data used by different Google services. The investigation is still ongoing, a spokeswoman for the Dutch DPA said. She declined to comment further.

French privacy authority CNIL already fined Google €150,000last year. The Spanish data protection authority imposed a €900,000 fine on the company in 2013 for violating national laws with the privacy policy.

In the U.K., Google agreed to change its policy after regulatory pressure in January, while it also struck a deal with the Italian authority in February.

Monday's changes come after Google last week announced plans to give users more control over the information they provide to mobile apps in the next version of Android.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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Loek Essers

IDG News Service
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