Ever wondered why Google collects your private data when you use its search engine? Internet privacy has recently become a burning issue around the world, what with government and security agencies unethically exploiting user data for their own purposes. With more than three million Internet users worldwide, protecting private information that is shared online has become more important than ever. Not only is this information used for annoying advertisement purposes, but also to track and harass users. In the worst case, the information can be stolen by hackers and used for criminal activities.
Google and Users’ Privacy Concerns
Google has got the stick for collecting, storing, and selling user data to third parties. Possibly the most used online service worldwide, Google has the biggest database of user information. A lot of people often feel vulnerable when using any of Google’s services, especially after privacy concerns took over the world. But before going after Google for breaching user privacy, let us take a look at what information they collect and why.
Types of Data Google Collects
According to Google, there are three types of data they collect:
- Information from the services that you use, including Maps, YouTube, Google Play, or others. This includes search history, websites you visit, videos you watch, ads you click on, your location, device information, IP addresses, and cookie data (no, this has nothing to do with oatmeal and raisin cookies).
- Things that you create while signed in with your Google Account. These include emails, contacts, calendar events, photos and videos, docs, sheets, and slides.
- Information that you provide when you sign up for a Google account. This includes your name, email address and password, date of birth, gender, phone number, and country.
Why Does Google Collect Its Users Data?
Now that we know what information Google collects, we must understand why they do it. Google claims that they use this information to improve user experience in the following ways:
- Google Maps show you real-time data related to traffic, transport, and directions using your location information and combining it with data from people around you.
- Google autocorrects and auto-completes your search based on your past search history. That is how your spelling mistakes are automatically corrected and how Google knows you are looking for restaurants when you type ‘Times Square.’
- YouTube uses your search and play history to recommend videos to you. Google also decides what is trending based on what the majority of users play, like, or search for.
- When you fill forms in Chrome, your data like name, date of birth, address, and payment information is used to auto-fill the forms to save you time. You can always edit specific fields to provide other information.
- If you use Google Assistant, then your past history along with other people’s search history are combined to provide you accurate answers.
How to Control What Data Google Collects
Google stores practically every piece of information that you provide, private or otherwise. Even though there is no criminal intent behind this, the fact that Google knows so much about you and can also put together other people’s data to know more about you is concerning. In case you didn’t know, there are ways to control what you let Google find out about you. You can do this by accessing Google’s privacy and security settings.
My Account is where you can control what information is associated with your Google account. You can remove information and change privacy settings to control what Google knows about you.
My Activity is where you can find everything you have searched, viewed, and watched using Google’s services. You can easily search for your online history, and also permanently delete it.
How to Safeguard Your Online Privacy?
For better protection, you can always use the incognito mode to browse the web. When you are incognito, your browsing history isn’t saved, so you can safely share private information online without Google snooping.
There are additional options for you to control your online privacy. Some of these features include:
- Ad settings: Control what ads you see and what topics you are interested in. The Ads Personalization settings can be used to select what kind of ads you want to see. You can also turn off the feature to stop seeing ads altogether.
- Privacy Checkup: Here, you can manage the data collected by Google, and control what information you share online.
- Security Checkup: This feature helps you know if your account information is up to date, and that the other applications using your information are verified and trusted.
- VPN: Connecting to a virtual private network, aka VPN, whenever you go online allows you to hide your public IP address and encrypt all of your Internet traffic.
Why Google Saves User Search History – Final Thoughts
Do not be concerned about privacy breaches. Take control today and make all Google services safer for yourself. We have all seen Blackhat and 24 – we know there are tech threats!