Google's new privacy policy is going into effect today, despite widespread criticism that saw the company release an ad campaign in order to win public support for the changes. Among those critical of the new policy have been EU investigators, who claim they weren't adequately briefed of Google's changes; the chairman of the FTC, who called the new policy "a fairly binary and somewhat brutal choice;" and even 36 US attorneys general, who jointly sent a letter to the company expressing their concerns. Another not-unexpected critic has been Microsoft, although Google has been quick to counter — when Microsoft announced plans to run a series of newspaper advertisements critical of Google's new policy last month, the company responded the same day with a blog post dissecting many of the individual claims.

While the company insists it isn't selling your personal data to others or "collecting any new data," most of the criticism over the new policy boils down to concerns over how Google is handling the personal information it is collecting. Those concerns range from whether consumers are adequately informed about the specific personal information and access rights they're surrendering when they use Google's services, to the implications of Google's richer data profiles — particularly as they relate to hacking and identity theft.

So what do the changes mean for you? First, regardless of how you feel about the new policy, it is much simpler and easier to understand, and it's actually possible to read through the entire policy. Second, the changes will allow Google to share your data between its services, meaning if you do a lot of Google searches for Mexican food, you might get videos on Mexico in your recommended YouTube videos, or links to travel agencies in your Gmail window. And third, the individual privacy controls aren't changing, which means all the privacy settings are in the same place they've always been. In any event, the new policy is here (at least for now), and users that want to lock things down as much as possible should follow Google's advice in today's blog post:

"If you don’t think information sharing will improve your experience, you can use our privacy tools to do things like edit or turn off your search history and YouTube history, control the way Google tailors ads to your interests and browse the web "incognito" using Chrome. You can use services like Search, Maps and YouTube if you are not signed in. You can even separate your information into different accounts, since we don’t combine personal information across them."