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Tracking

One of Google’s corporate philosophies has always been not to “do evil.” Google’s Privacy Policy Highlights explain more. (You’ll also find a link to their complete Privacy Policy on that page.)

Whether you trust Google or not, it’s good to know something about how Google tracks you. What does Google do to remember your Preferences? When does Google record personal information like your name and your email address? And how far can you go to protect yourself without losing Google’s services? We won’t try to answer all of those questions thoroughly or in detail — after all, this is a guide to Google, not to computer security. We’ll hit the highlights, though: enough information to help you understand something about what’s going on inside your browser and on Google’s servers.

Cookies vs. Accounts

Let’s start with an overview of two main ways Google can keep track of you: by storing cookies on your web browser(s) and by asking you to sign up for a Google Account. Two following pages, Google Accounts and Controlling Cookies, have details.

  • A cookie is a piece of data that’s exchanged by a server (say, Google’s server) with a web browser that’s using its web pages. A cookie lets a web server track information about a particular web browser.

    For instance, a web server could store a cookie to help it track all of the web pages visited by you (actually, by your browser — including any other people who use the browser on your computer).

    Browsers can store many different cookies at the same time. You can control which cookies are set and how long they’re kept.

  • A Google Account holds some or all of the information about yourself that you’ve provided to Google at some time — such as your email address and your name. This information is maintained on Google’s servers. It gives you access to some Google Services, such as your personal shopping wishlist for Product Search.

    Google doesn’t require accounts for most of its services. The exception is services where identitifying you is important — like sending messages with Google Groups or Gmail.

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This page was last modified on: Monday August 11, 2008

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By Nancy Blachman and Jerry Peek who aren't Google employees. For permission to copy & create derivative works, visit Google Guide's Creative Commons License webpage.

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