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What Does Google Know About You?

by | Dec 13, 2019 | MyTek Blog, Security

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Most people in the world use the Google search engine in some way or another. It’s very reliable when it comes to searching for answers and finding content online. Currently, Google handles around 90% of search queries, standing at the number one position. The second and third place goes to Yahoo and Bing respectively, who share less than 5% of the search market share locally.

Google curates the search results based on various factors including your location, type of device, and online surfing habits. It also means Google tracks our web usage data to give us a better experience. 

Let’s see how you can protect your privacy by restricting Google’s control over your data.

What Information Does Google Collect and Why?

Google knows certain basic stuff about you. For example, it knows your search history or the websites you click on. Google monitors traffic across the web to determine the most popular and authentic ones. It can approximately locate the the place where your mobile is currently active. By processing these advanced data points, Google can clearly finetune the search history. Use the search box to order food online, and Google shows you the best feasible search result.

When data privacy is at the center of a large scale debate, you have multiple options:

  1. Ignore the situation and allow Google to store and share your personal information in real-time.
  2. Stay away from social media and web browsing to safeguard data privacy.
  3. Have clarity on the data collection and see if you can find a delicate balance between data privacy and safe browsing.

Option two may look attractive, but option three is much better.

Let’s understand more about your public Google profile and see if you have control over the information in the public domain.

Let’s Review Your Public Google Profile and Sort Things Out

First, log in to your Google account at  https://myaccount.google.com/.

 This page varies based on your services on Google, but let’s focus on privacy and security options.

On the left-hand side, click on the Personal Info tab.

Google will display your basic information like name, date of birth, and contact information.

When you scroll down, you’ll see an option Go to About me. Click on the option. With this option, you can control what other people know about you in the public domain. You can select the pencil icon to edit the information and click the green globe to hide specific information from the outside world.

This is just the beginning. Next, let’s look at Google’s historical record of our online presence.

Steps to Pause Google’s Web and App Tracking

Google keeps a record of all your Google searches and online activity to finetune the results. Login to your account and go to myactivity.google.com to review your activity. You can find years worth of personal search history, watched YouTube videos, used Apps, etc.

Again, click on https://myaccount.google.com/ from your Google account.

Now, click Data & Personalization from the right-hand side tab.

Navigate to Activity Controls.  

From the Activity Controls tab, select Web & App Activity.

By clicking the blue switch on the right, you can pause the app and web tracking. Then, you will stop getting specific recommendations for your profile. But, it may not delete your Google tracking data.

Google usually informs you if they plan to use your information temporarily for fine-tuning your search sessions. This process is applicable even if you are not logged into Google.

How To Remove Historical Search History from Google Profile

We suggest that you regularly analyze your historical activity on Google. You can decide which data you want Google to collect and avoid.

Go to https://myactivity.google.com while you are still logged in to your Google account.

From the search box, filter your recent activity based on a Google product or by date. For example, you can enter the search term ‘Google Assistant’ and enter a specific range to find every detail about how you used the ‘Google Assistant.’ You can also delete the data by clicking on the Trash Bin icon.

To delete data in bulk, click on the Delete activity on the left-hand menu.

A pop-up window appears showing the date range. You can either select All time in order to delete every data or select the date range to delete specific data. Once you delete the information, you may not retrieve it back. 

Remember, all this data gives you a personalized experience on Google. But deleting the data will provide you with a fresh perspective and help you start overall again. 

Fortunately, Google has an automatic deletions setup, which helps you keep the most recent data. After a while, the old data gets wholly deleted. In this way, you are in a favorable position as your historical usage data is deleted, but Google continues to provide you customized user experience. 

To set up this feature, click on Set up automatic deletions.

You’ll get three options.

  • Keep until I delete manually – this is your default option. The data is retained unless you specifically delete it.
  • Keep for 18 months – The old data is automatically removed, but the data of last year and a half is retained to give a personalized user experience.
  • Keep for three months – You have the option to retain data for only three months as well. This reduces the personalization feature, but Google stores your data for less time. 

How to Control Your Google Location History

Google handles your location history differently. Your location tracking happens via both smartphones and Google Maps. If you want to avoid location tracking altogether, you can stop using Google Maps.

To manage your location history, go to https://myactivity.google.com and click on Other Google activity from the left-hand menu. Navigate down the menu list for Location History, and select Managed Activity below.

You can see a map with the different places of your visit marked as red dots.

Beneath the map, select the blue Manage Location History button.

By clicking the blue toggle switch on the right, you can pause your location history.

This feature doesn’t affect all location services. For example, the Find My Device feature on your Android phone will continue to work well.

However, this process does not delete your historical data. For that, go back to your timeline by clicking: maps.google.com/timeline.

Then, select the trash bin icon situated on the bottom right of your screen.

Remember, this step deletes all the data, and neither you nor Google will have access to it forever. 

What More Information Can Google Access?

Google is more than just a search engine. Google also consists of multiple features like YouTube, Google’s default Android keyboard, Google Ads, Google Voice, Google Play, and more. 

You can find out everything through this link: https://myactivity.google.com/more-activity. 

You can easily scroll down the list to manage each option effectively. 

Each link redirects you to a different page across Google’s service stack most of the time. These services have similar options to pause historical data and manage the existing data.

Too Much Data Can Get Overwhelming

Searching through huge volumes of search history, location data, and deleting them can be exhausting. It requires a lot of patience and effort. Some of you prefer to delete everything, while others just customize the settings. 

However, knowing that you are tracked by Google can be uncomfortable. As long as Google keeps the data safe, we shouldn’t be complaining. On the brighter side, Google has simplified our lives. 

But, you shouldn’t take privacy lightly. While Google promises data security, recent incidents have shown some malpractices. For instance, Google goes through your Gmail messages to track your purchases, despite claiming in 2018 that “To be absolutely clear: no one at Google reads your Gmail, except in very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse.” (Source) In this case, Google’s AI algorithm has access to your data.

Though privacy should be your utmost priority, you should also have a clear idea about your data footprint. We constantly use digital devices like microphones, smartphones, etc., that give Google our data access. Hence, you need to control and customize your user experience effectively.

When it comes to your customer data protection and data privacy, you need to be well prepared. You need the support of an expert-managed IT service provider like MyTek.

Give MyTek a call at 623-312-2440 to understand how to solve your IT challenges.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim - Team

Tim Tiller, LMSW

 
Tim Tiller, MSW brings a deep service background to his role at Mytek, having graduated from McDonald’s management training program, fresh out of high school, and working his way up through the ranks in the hospitality industry. He has led two prior companies – Multi-Systems Inc., an IT-focused organization providing technology to hospitality companies (where he was named President at age 36), and most recently, as Chief Operating Officer for Jewish Voice Ministries International.

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