Company says it did so to enhance clarity; others say they don't see substantial changes.
The updated policy, posted on Friday, now says employees, contractors and others with access to personal customer information may be fired or prosecuted if they violate confidentiality obligations, rather than merely saying employees would have access to the information on a "need to know"-only basis.
It also urges customers to read the privacy practices of Google's affiliated sites, which may be different from Google's.
In an e-mail, Nicole Wong, associate general counsel at Google, said the company simplified the policy so that users would better understand it.
"We regularly review our policy and update as necessary. In this case, we were pleased to learn that the EU Commission had embraced the concept of 'layered notices' for privacy policies, emphasizing simplicity and clarity," she said. "We agree with that and modified our policies in a way that we hope is both clear and easy to understand for our users."
"Google still logs everything you do in interaction with their services, and they can do whatever they want with it that their engineers can dream up," he said. "It doesn't change the fact that Google is amassing an enormous store of intimate data about its users."
Brad Hill, author of "Google for Dummies," said there was no cause for alarm.