The technology giant Google has come to be synonymous with searching the Web. So much so that we don’t look up information anymore – we Google it. Almost all of Google’s services are free, from Gmail to Hangouts to YouTube. While we don’t have to pay anything to access these services, there’s something else that we pay – our private information.
Furthermore, it is no secret that most of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. You must have noticed ads relevant to your recent search history magically appearing while you browse the web. For instance, you search for shoes, and soon, ads from online shoe stores begin to appear on your feed. We all know Google use our information to show us relevant ads. But how much Google actually know about us, and how safe is it?
What and How Much Does Google Know About You
What and How Much Does Google Know About You
Here’s how Google collects your information from the services that you use:
Google Web History
The most obvious way for Google to get hold of your private information is through the web history on all your devices registered with Google. This feature allows Google to tailor future searches based on your history. While this is useful in some cases, it also lets advertisers get access to your information and show you relevant ads.
Google also keeps track of the other pages you visit with the help of tracking cookies, and Google AdSense and Analytics. You can change your preferences by going to Google’s Ad Settings that lets you opt out of ads or change the type of ads you want to see.
Almost everyone accesses YouTube because it’s the easiest way to watch videos online. But YouTube also keeps track of your history, your searches and subscriptions to help Google know and understand more about you. You- or anyone with access to your Google account- can view this history on Google Dashboard.
Facebook came a lot before Google Plus, and it taught Google a good many things about collecting user data. Google Plus is much like Facebook when it comes to collecting your information. From where you live to what you do for a living to who you follow, Google keeps track of it all. Google can also view the pictures you upload, the people you tag in them, and even the messages you send. Yes, nothing is private anymore.
If you thought at least your emails were private, think again. Google mines Gmail data to obtain information that is then sold off to the advertising partners. This information, coupled with the information about you found publicly, is used to show you targeted ads. This also includes GTalk, Gmail’s chat service. All your chat history is saved, and Google is free to view and use the information.
According to Google’s Terms of Service, you retain ownership to your Google Drive files, but Google can view them any time it wishes to. This means your Drive data isn’t private either. The process of mining Drive data isn’t much different from the way Gmail data is mined, and even though your content remains your own, it isn’t really private.
Let’s not forget about Android, the operating system most smartphones and tablets use today. If you have an Android phone you most surely have a Google account and this makes it ridiculously easy for Google to track your information even if you are not on a PC.
Android phones have GPS and location tracking, and this means that Google gets to know where you live, what places you frequent, and which local haunts are your favorites. If you go to the Location History tool, you can view all the information Google has about you, and you can even choose to delete this information. It isn’t known if removing the history from your phone also removes it from Google’s database.
Android’s backup service is a useful tool in case you damage your phone or lose it. But this is also a big area of concern. When you backup your device, all the information on your phone, including apps and passwords, are stored on Google’s servers.
This means the information can be easily used by Google, or obtained by malicious means like hacking Google’s servers. If anyone gains access to your Google account, then they can easily obtain this information by registering a new phone.
How to Stop Google from Spying On You
If you are worried about Google knowing so much about you, installing a Virtual Private Network is the best option. A VPN keeps your browsing history private and makes your online activities more secure. Here are the best VPN services you can use to add an extra layer of security and privacy to all your online dealings. For a more detailed review and more info about VPN, please read this review.
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British website ‘The Mirror’ have also put together a useful guide on how to wipe your slate clean and delete all the data Google holds on you.
How Much Does Google Know About You – Wrap Up
It isn’t easy to escape Google’s shadow if you are online. You give away pretty much everything you do over the web, including your search history, your passwords, and your personal information. Google’s intentions aren’t malicious. Since they make the most profits from advertisements, they collect your information to show you ads that you might find relevant and useful.