Here are some key issues:
Question: How will Google's privacy changes affect users?
Answer: Google Inc. is combining more than 60 privacy policies so it will be able to throw all the data it gathers about each of its logged-in users into personal dossiers. What Google learns about you while you enter search requests can be culled to suggest videos to watch when you visit the company's YouTube site.
Users who write a memo on Google's online word-processing program, Docs, might be alerted to the misspelling of the name of a friend or coworker a user has communicated with on Google's Gmail.
Q: Is there a way to prevent Google from combining the personal data it collects from all its services?
A: No, not if you're a registered user of Gmail, Google Plus, YouTube, or other Google products. But you can minimize the data Google gathers. For starters, make sure you aren't logged in to one of Google's services when you're using Google's search engine, watching a YouTube video, or perusing pictures on Picasa. You can get a broad overview of what Google knows about you at www.google.com/dashboard. Google also offers the option to delete users' history of search activity.
Google can still track you even when you're not logged in to one of its services. But the information isn't quite as revealing because Google doesn't track you by name, only through a numeric Internet address attached to your computer or an alphanumeric string attached to your Web browser.
A: No, a few products, such as Google's Chrome Web browser and mobile payment processor Wallet, will still be governed by separate privacy policies.
A: The company has no doubt about it. But privacy activists and even some legal authorities have concerns.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy-rights group, unsuccessfully sued the Federal Trade Commission in federal court in an effort to force the FTC to exercise its powers and block Google's privacy changes.
France warned Google this week that the new policy appeared to violate the European Union's strict data-protection rules. Last week, 36 attorneys general in the United States and its territories derided the new policy as an "invasion of privacy" in a letter to Google.