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Google is trying to make users feel better about their privacy

The simplified controls will make it easier for users to decide what data Google’s services has access to.

GOOGLE HAS LAUNCHED a new privacy controls hub which it hopes will make users more comfortable about how their data is collected and used.

All privacy settings and options are now found under a ‘My account’ hub, meaning users don’t have to visit each individual Google service if they want to change any settings.

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The overhaul comes in response to criticisms surrounding the company’s use of data and the lack of direction it gave users who wanted to control how their data is used.

“It wasn’t well organised and we didn’t give a lot of context,” said Guemmy Kim, Google’s product manager of account controls and settings. “We are trying to take the mystery out of privacy.”

Users can control what kind of personal information is linked to their account, limit or block it from storing location and search data on both desktop and mobile and limit the type of ads they see. It warns that search results won’t be as fast or as accurate if these options are turned off.

Google generates the bulk of its revenue from online advertising, showing ads most relevant to each user’s interests. In the first quarter of 2015, it generated $15.508 billion (€14.138 billion) in total advertising revenue, an 11% increase from the year before.

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This change follows Google’s announcement last week concerning its follow-up to Android Lollipop. Codenamed M, the update allows users to grant or refuse all app permission to certain smartphone features instead of granting them all automatically.

Facebook similarly uses what it gleans from people’s activity on its social network to sell ads. Google’s new privacy check-up tool is similar to a feature that Facebook unveiled nearly nine months ago.

The reliance of personal data to target ads has subjected both Google and Facebook to harsh criticism by privacy watchdogs and some competitors. Without identifying specific companies, Apple CEO Tim Cook last year posted an open letter warning that “when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.”

Since 2010, Google has been reprimanded by regulators in the US and Europe for a variety of privacy breaches, including exposing email contacts, secretly tracking users of Apple’s Safari browser and snooping on WiFi networks.

“We have had some privacy missteps, but we are always trying to learn from that and to serve our users better,” Kim says.

(Additional reporting by Associated Press)

Read: Google has a big idea to help you save your phone’s battery power >

Read: Using your devices at night? Here’s how you can reduce the strain on your eyes >

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