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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Google’s Privacy Policy In Layman’s Words

I’ve gone through the “highlights” of the Google Privacy Policy (which recently changed). The highlights document is supposed to be a translation of the longer legalese found in the full privacy policy, but I think it’s still not down-to-earth simple enough. So here’s my try on improving that.

What they say What they really mean

At Google we recognize that privacy is important. This document outlines the types of personal information we receive and collect when you use Google’s services, as well as some of the steps we take to safeguard information. We hope this will help you make an informed decision about sharing personal information with us.

We know you want to keep your dirty secrets secret. Here you’ll find out which of those secrets we already got in case you’ve been to one of our sites, and you’ll also understand why our system security guy is divorced twice already (he works weekends).


This notice offers highlights of the full Google Privacy Policy, which describes in detail the privacy practices that apply to Google’s products, services and websites worldwide (collectively, Google’s “services”). You can also get more information about the privacy practices for specific Google services in the navigation bar to the left of this notice.

What we’re talking about here

What we’re talking about here covers pretty much all of our stuff. For some of our stuff, we have even more fine print available in case we need to do weird things with your secrets.

Personal information and other data we collect

Google collects personal information when you register for a Google service or otherwise voluntarily provide such information. We may combine personal information collected from you with information from other Google services or third parties to provide a better user experience, including customizing content for you.

Your secrets, well, the ones we already got

When you want to use one of our sites, I mean really use them, we put up those little boxes where you type your name and stuff. Whatever you type in any of those sites goes to our great big machine somewhere in the basement, and from there, all of our employees can pretty much sniff around in it and do fun stuff with it, like read it out loud on office parties.

Google uses cookies and other technologies to enhance your online experience and to learn about how you use Google services in order to improve the quality of our services.

Whenever you visit one of our sites, we drop a lil’ something on your PC so that your PC greets us with a warm “Welcome” next time you come around. This lil’ something helps us to know just who you are, so we don’t mix your dirty little secrets with the dirty little secrets of someone else. Customer’s king and all.

Google’s servers automatically record information when you visit our website or use some of our products, including the URL, IP address, browser type and language, and the date and time of your request.

We have what techies call log files. Now sit down and relax. Nothing to see here. Every server got that. Sheesh.


We may use personal information to provide the services you’ve requested, including services that display customized content and advertising.

What we do with your secrets

We keep your secrets to run our stuff. What do you think, we could send you a Gmail without knowing who you are? That we could deliver your search result without knowing who you are? Oh, ok, we could that. But not the email stuff, no kidding.

We may also use personal information for auditing, research and analysis to operate and improve Google technologies and services.

We do a lot of geek stuff with your secrets, like look at it all day trying to see patterns. But relax, we don’t really care a lot about your secrets because we’re pretty much occupied with keeping this stuff from crashing (you think 1 computer is hard to maintain? Duh, we have about 100,000, so figure that).

We may share aggregated non-personal information with third parties outside of Google.

We sometimes laugh at your secrets when the guys from next building hang around.

When we use third parties to assist us in processing your personal information, we require that they comply with our Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures.

When the guys next door come around to carry away your secrets in big gray cartons, they have to promise they don’t do any funny funny stuff with it, cross my heart and hope to die.

We may also share information with third parties in limited circumstances, including when complying with legal process, preventing fraud or imminent harm, and ensuring the security of our network and services.

When the guys from Homeland Security knock on our doors, well dude... of course we panic and hand them your secrets. You voted for them, wasn’t us.

Google processes personal information on our servers in the United States of America and in other countries. In some cases, we process personal information on a server outside your own country.

Your secrets are stored all around the globe, including countries you never heard of. So?

Your choices

We offer you choices when we ask for personal information, whenever reasonably possible. You can find more information about your choices in the privacy notices or FAQs for specific services.

Your call, brother

Unless one of our programmers forgot to implement it, we asked nicely before you shared your secrets. You eat crackers in bed, you sleep with crumbs.

You may decline to provide personal information to us and/or refuse cookies in your browser, although some of our features or services may not function properly as a result.

You could’ve said “no,” though of course then our stuff won’t work. Heheheh.

We make good faith efforts to provide you access to your personal information upon request and to let you correct such data if it is inaccurate and delete it, when reasonably possible.

Dude, it’s not like we steal your secrets and you won’t ever see them again. You can even delete some if you want. God, you really do have something to hide, don’t you?

More information

For information about specific Google services, please check the relevant privacy notice in the navigation bar to the left. Google is a member of the EU/US Safe Harbor Program.

Our lawyers didn’t think you’d make it here

In case you’re still smoking the paranoia pipe, get a life and click somewhere to leave, or else we stop being all nice n’ cuddly and start throwing heavy official sounding words at you.

For more information about our privacy practices, go to the full privacy policy. If you have additional questions, please contact us any time. Or write to us at: ...

In case you want to get one of our automated replies, drop us an email. If you don’t really know what that is, well grandma, then for chrissake put it on paper and send it to Santa. Or us. Let’s see who replies sooner...


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