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How Much Does Google Know About You and What You Can Do About It

You probably already know that Google, the corporate giant, has a lot of information on you, given that it has been the preferred search engine for the majority of the world’s population and is part of most of our electronic devices and overall online activity. But I’ll bet you’ve never even imagined the extent of this data collection activity.

Well, it’s time to get familiar with…well, yourself and in the theme of the spookiest month of the year, let me tell you one very scary story. Warning for all those who are faint of heart!

What Google knows about you

Who you are:

Through various services Google knows how you look like (Through Google Photos’ facial recognition software the company has a basic idea of what you look like), what you sound like (if you’ve ever used voice search on any google or android device), if you have children, your political and religious views, your health status.

How this information is collected:Google Chrome, Google Search, Gmail, Google Photos, Ads, Google Fit

Where you’ve been:

Google ‘s location monitoring and tracking apps use Wi-Fi, GPS and cellular networks to collect data on where you live, your place of work, which locations you visit, where you travel, and how long you’re at a certain place.

How this information is collected: Google Chrome, Google Search, Maps, Calendar, Waze

See for yourself: https://goo.gl/rTSPPM

Who are your friends and family:

Google can use your data to also monitor those around you like who you talk to, who you text or email, where you meet, and even what you talk about.

How this information is collected: Google Chrome, Google Search, Maps, Calendar, Waze

Who are the people you most frequently converse with? See for yourself: https://goo.gl/7gT8cq

What you like/ dislike:

What are your favorite books, videos, stores, food, music, where you shop and what you buy, basically everything.

How this information is collected: Google Chrome, Google Search, YouTube, Google Shopping, Google Books, News

Your online activity:

At its basic level, Google is a search engine and therefore keeps data on every website you visit, your bookmarked pages, your autofill data, your browser settings, every ad you’ve clicked on, every image you’ve saved, browsing habits, apps you’ve used and more.

How this information is collected: Google Chrome, Google Search, Gmail

See for yourself: https://goo.gl/4XFiLV

What ads to show you:

In order to target the right ads to you, Google collects a ton of data through your every-day browsing activity.

You can review, edit and control this data through here: https://goo.gl/iKqb2u

 

Want to see all this data?

Google gives you the option to download all data they have on you with one click of a button: Google Takeout

Yes, it’s that easy! Practically anyone can do it! So what’s stopping hackers, identity thieves etc., from using this against you? Well…nothing if they can get to your profile.  But don’t despair! There are ways for you to limit the data Google has on you by doing some simple things (though if you are fond of personalized advertising this would surely affect that):

  1. Use a different Browser/ Search engine. This doesn’t stop data collecting since the data will be received from the company that owns said Browser/ Search engine (like Microsoft), but will diversify your data through the channels so you don’t give the full picture of your activities in one single page.
  2. Use Incognito Mode. This too has its drawbacks. While the pages you access won’t show up on your feed, websites still can collect and share information about you.
  3. Disable reporting of activities: Visit: Activity Controls and disable the activity controls you wish to stop sharing your data.
  4. Opt-out of Google Analytics. Every site nowadays uses Google analytics to track users’ activity on their site, if you don’t want to be tracked you can install this plug-in GAOpt-out
  5. Disable access from apps to your Google account. Yes, using your Google account to log-in seemed like a no-brainer at the time you did it. It was faster and you didn’t have to make up a new username password, email, for yet another site/ app you use, but now that app/ site has a data breach and the hackers have access to your profile. So yeah it is a hassle, but it is necessary.
  6. Use a VPN. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure option to keep Google from tracking you while you’re online. Although virtual private networks can’t completely keep the company from accessing your data, they do hide your IP address, encrypt your internet traffic and make your browsing history private, keeping your online actions much more secure.
  7. Remove all your Google accounts. Yes, maybe the ultimate way to remove big brother from your life. Delete everything! Destroy your phone and live like a hermit for the rest of your life! Okay…got a little carried away there.

Overall Google has become an integral part of our lives and it will be hard to stop using its services no matter the cost. But it’s good to be informed and take measures before something inevitable violates your privacy.

 

If you are interested in keeping your own data and your client’s data safe, might we suggest GDPR Toolkit? A complete set of informational materials and template documents, designed to guide you through your journey towards compliance with GDPR.

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