How does Google's new privacy policy compare?

Much ado has been made about Google's new overarching privacy policy, but the company's not doing anything much different than Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, or Yahoo

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The general policy says Microsoft collects all sorts of information about users, including name, address, phone numbers, gender, preferences, and favorites, and then shares that data among other services you use for such purposes as personalizing your experience. "Microsoft uses your personal information for ... making the sites or services easier to use by eliminating the need for you to repeatedly enter the same information; performing research and analysis aimed at improving our products, services, and technologies; and displaying content and advertising that are customized to your interests and preferences," according to the policy.

The only opt-out options listed in the policy are to put the kibosh on receiving targeted ads.

Google vs. Apple
Apple, meanwhile, has a single privacy policy document (last updated on Oct. 21). It appears to apply to any and all Apple services, including iTunes, iCloud, MobileMe, iPhone, Mac, and the Apple Retail stores. Apple's policy says, vaguely, that it may collect "a variety of information," including name, address, phone number, email address, contact preferences, and credit card information. The info is collected as users create an Apple ID, register products, apply for credit, purchase a product, download software updates, register for classes at an Apple Retail Store, or participate in an online survey.

Apple also may collect info about your friends and family when you share content with them using an Apple product, send a gift certificate or product, or ask them to join you on Apple forums. The info includes the contact's name, mailing address, email address, and phone number.

Apple says that it may combine personal info with non-personal info it collects (such as occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used) with personal information. "The combined information will be treated as personal information for as long as it remains combined," per the policy.

Apple uses all the info it gathers from users for such purposes as targeting users with product announcements, software updates, and event information; "to develop, deliver, and improve products, services, content, and advertising;" and "for internal purposes, such as auditing, data analysis, and research to improve Apple's products, services, and customer communications."

As with Microsoft's policy, Apple only provides a way to opt out of receiving targeted ads.

Google vs. Yahoo
Yahoo has long followed a single sign-on to access a wide range of services, from email to travel to games to finance to personals. Per its privacy policy, it collects all sorts of information about you, as well as about your transactions with Yahoo and its partners. It's not entirely clear how much data is passed among services: "Yahoo uses information for the following general purposes: To customize the advertising and content you see, fulfill your requests for products and services, improve our services, contact you, conduct research, and provide anonymous reporting for internal and external clients."

Yahoo does surrender your information to partners, however: "We provide the information to trusted partners who work on behalf of or with Yahoo under confidentiality agreements. These companies may use your personal information to help Yahoo communicate with you about offers from Yahoo and our marketing partners."

Yahoo lets you set your Yahoo Account Information, including your marketing preferences, to opt out of targeted ads. The level of data Yahoo offers isn't quite as comprehensive as what you'd find on Google's Dashboard, though.

This story, "How does Google's new privacy policy compare?," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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