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Google Trims Privacy Policy

Moving to improve user privacy, Google has made it easier to understand the company's privacy policies and to find its privacy tools.

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Google on Friday said that it has simplified its privacy policies in an effort to make them easier to understand and to operate with greater transparency.

The revised policies don't mark any change in the company's privacy practices. Rather, Google is updating its privacy policies to communicate more clearly and concisely -- the new main privacy policy has over 400 fewer words -- and to reflect the growing integration of Google's services.

Whether anyone will notice remains to be seen. Most Internet users do not read online privacy policies because they're "long, complicated and lawyerly," as Google associate general counsel Mike Yang concedes in a blog post. But the thought counts for something.

Yang says that Google is making two types of improvements. The first involves the deletion of 12 product-specific privacy policies, a consequence of service convergence. As an example, Yang notes that contacts are shared between services like Calendar, Docs, and Gmail. So it makes sense for these services to share a single privacy policy.

The second involves editing, specifically rewriting legalese in clear, readable prose, and omitting the obvious, like statements advising users that sites not owned by Google have their own privacy polices.

In conjunction with this new push for clarity, Google is expanding privacy articles in its Help Center.

The company has also created a new privacy tools page that assembles links to Google's various privacy tools in one place.

Google's updated privacy policy takes effect October 3, 2010.

Also on Friday, Google settled a privacy lawsuit filed in April over the February launch of Google Buzz, a social networking service that created controversy for exposing users' e-mail contacts.

The settlement recognizes changes to Buzz that Google made in response to the initial controversy as a good faith effort to address complaints. It also "...requires that Google undertake wider public education about the privacy aspects of Buzz" and "...provides for the creation of an $8.5 million Settlement Fund."

After deducting legal fees, the balance will be paid to various Internet privacy groups.

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