Google’s controversial privacy changes give birth to cross-product insights tool

Google has wasted no time taking advantage of its newfound ability to pool consumer data across all products, thanks to controversial privacy policy changes, and is today releasing a not-so-scary utility for its users.

On Wednesday, Google announced the release of Account Activity, a new cross-product report that users can sign-up for to receive account insights on a monthly basis.

Above: click to enlarge

The Account Activity report summarizes the data associated with each of the Google products you use, and will include email stats, total and top web queries, places visited (if you use Latitude), YouTube video views, account sign-ins, and so forth.

The new account-insights feature comes just weeks after Google combined all 60 of its product privacy policies into a single policy for all its services. The new policy, enacted on March 1, attracted widespread criticism because it allows the search giant to combine user data across all of its products, which some deemed an invasion of privacy.

Technically, Google did not need the new privacy policy to release the reporting tool with the information included at launch, we’re told. The product is sure to evolve to include more insights, however, and should Google collect information from one product to improve your experience on another and then offer up that data in report form, then it’s now covered under the policy changes.

While the Account Activity report will likely do little to calm fears, the new tool does demonstrate that pooling data across products can be used for good. Because the report includes information on where and how Google products are logged into each month, for instance, it could help you thwart account breaches. “If you notice sign-ins from countries where you haven’t been or devices you’ve never owned, you can change your password immediately and sign up for the extra level of security provided,” product manager Andreas Tuerk explained.

Then again, given that the report summarizes your monthly browsing and email history, some may find it scary a reminder that Google is always watching or simply be alarmed at their own Internet behaviors. For the latter group, you can take a little comfortable in the knowledge that you can delete the reports at any time.

Photo credit: maistora/Flickr


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