To promote Plus, Google recently began including recommendations about people and companies with Plus accounts in its search results. That change has provoked an outcry from critics who say Google is abusing its dominance in internet search to drive more traffic to its own services.
Google and the Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement last year that forbids Google from misrepresenting how it uses personal information and from sharing an individual’s data without prior approval. Google also agreed to biennial privacy audits for the next two decades.
Google said it talked to regulators about the upcoming privacy changes, which it will apply worldwide. An FTC spokeswoman declined to comment on the changes or say whether the agency was consulted.
Some critics saw Google as trying to beat regulators to the punch by setting a precedent before the FTC unveils its own framework for protecting online privacy.
Google, Facebook, and other popular internet services all want to learn as much as possible about their users so they can sell more advertising at higher rates to marketers looking to target people interested in specific products, such as golf clubs or skinny jeans.
Google says users who opt to see personalized ads are 37 percent more likely to respond to an ad than people who opt out of targeting.
Ryan Calo, director for privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said Google is trying to make its policy privacy transparent instead of bogging users down with pages of legalese; the new privacy policies run about 10,000 words, down from 68,000.
But he said the company must ensure that the ways it uses data help users without revealing sensitive information.
“If it creeps people out, then they need to be aware of that,” he said.