Everything Google Knows About You (and How to Delete it)
Google provides a cornucopia of useful services: search, email, cloud storage, productivity tools, and much more. Virtually all of them are free for personal use, and not very expensive for businesses and other organizations. But free stuff comes with a price. Read and learn what's in your Google history, and how to limit what information is collected...
Your Online Privacy: What Does Google Know About You?
Do you use Google Search, Chrome, YouTube, Gmail, Google Docs, Maps or any of these other Google services? If so, are you aware of the information that Google collects about your online activities?
Google wants to know everything about you, so that it can tell advertisers what you are likely to buy. There is nothing sinister about this; Google is up front about what data it collects and what is shared with advertisers.
But for many people, it comes as a surprise to learn exactly how much data Google collects and what inferences it draws from the data. You may want to see what Google knows about you, and limit what it can learn. Google makes it easy but not obvious.
Every Google account includes a “My Google Activity” page, but it isn’t easy to find accidentally. Go to https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity and if you're not already signed into your Google account, do so. Scroll down and you’ll find that Google notes everything you have searched for, the date and time you searched for it, what Web pages you viewed, what locations you looked up on Google Maps, and other online activity.
In the middle of this activity page, Google assures you, “Only you can see this data. Google protects your privacy and security" and "You can see and delete your activity using the controls on this page." The first way to control the scope of data that appears here is the Search box. You can search for an item in your activity, or filter the results by date or product. Google "products" include Chrome, Calendar, GMail, Maps, Youtube, and a bunch more.
Viewing and Managing Your Google History
I suggest you try "Other Google Activity" and explore the items there. Start with “YouTube Watch History” by clicking the "Manage Activity" link that appears below that heading. Now click on the three stacked dots over on the right side of an item. See the option to delete your history of viewing that YouTube video? That can come in handy if you view a video, intentionally or not, that you’d rather not have anyone know you viewed. On this page you can also delete all videos viewed on a given date, or click the "Change Setting" button and there you'll find a slider to pause (but not delete) your Youtube Watch History. To delete your entire Watch History, click the three vertical dots in the Search box, then click "Delete Activity By". Specify a date of "All time" (or any date range you wish) and click Delete.
Returning to the "Other Google Activity" page, try the "Web & App Activity" or "Voice & Audio Activity" categories from the Settings menu at the top left. Scrolling through the list of items, you'll see they are organized similary by date. Some of these categories give finer control over what is collected, how long that data is kept, and how to delete it from your Google history. Recently, Google added new controls in the "Web & App Activity" section, which allow you to automatically delete items after 3 months, 18 months.
I found the Location History section particularly interesting. I generally keep location services turned on for my mobile device, so I was able to review some of my past travels. So Google knows I was in Portland Oregon back in 2015, and that I visited my local library on Wednesday. That doesn't bother me. In fact, I've used Location History to help me trace my steps on a particular date, and remember where I was. If you're trying to shed some pounds, and you don't want your spouse to know you've been visiting the donut shop, you can delete your Location History.
So you can control what Google collects about you, on a broad or item-specific basis. The problem is that Google collects so much data that micro-managing controls is an overwhelming chore. The “Activity Controls” are where you can set and forget your privacy preferences. The item-by-item or day-by-day controls are for special occasions when your default settings are not enough.
What's your opinion on limiting (or not limiting) what Google knows about you? Do you opt out of certain types of data collection, or do you let it ride? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
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This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Jul 2019
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Everything Google Knows About You (and How to Delete it) (Posted: 5 Jul 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved