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Everything Google Knows About You

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

A Comprehensive Guide to Accessing, Understanding, and Limiting Data Collection

It's nearly impossible to navigate the internet without encountering Google. As the world's most popular search engine, Google provides services that extend well beyond searches, including email (Gmail), video hosting (YouTube), map navigation (Google Maps), and the widely-used Android operating system. Behind the scenes, Google collects massive amounts of data to improve its services and target advertising. Here's what you need to know about this data collection, how to access your data, and steps you can take to limit it.

hacker with glasses spying on computer

What Google Knows About You

Google collects data through various channels:

1. Searches and Browsing History: Google tracks your searches and browsing history on Google Chrome, Google Search, and other Google services. This data aids in personalizing your experience and advertising.

2. Location Data: If you use Google Maps or have location services turned on for your Android device, Google keeps a record of your location history.

3. Device Information: Google collects information about your devices, including hardware models, operating system versions, mobile network information including phone numbers, and unique device identifiers.

4. Apps and Services: Google knows which apps and services you use, how often, and when.

5. Voice and Audio Data: When you use voice commands with Google Assistant, it collects audio data to improve its speech recognition technology.

6. Emails and Contacts: Through Gmail, Google has access to your email content and contacts.

7. YouTube Watch History: Google tracks your YouTube activity, including your watch history and liked videos, to provide personalized recommendations.

How to Access Your Google Data on Mobile

Accessing the data Google has collected from you is straightforward:

  1. Open Google Chrome or any other browser on your mobile device.

  2. Sign in to your Google account if you're not already logged in.

  3. Go to Google's "My Account" page. From here, you'll be able to access a wide range of settings and options.

  4. Tap on "Data & personalization" in the left-hand menu.

  5. Under the "Activity and timeline" panel, click on "My Activity."

  6. Browse through your activity. Here you'll see your search activity, location history, information from other Google services, and more.

  7. To download your data, return to the "Data & personalization" menu and scroll down to "Download, delete, or make a plan for your data." Click "Download your data." Google will compile your data, which may take some time depending on the volume, and then provide a download link.

Ways to Limit Google's Data Collection

While Google collects a lot of data, there are ways to limit what information is gathered:

1. Pause Your Activity: Under "Data & personalization," you'll see "Activity controls." Here you can choose to pause Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History. This will limit the data that Google collects but may also impact the personalization of your Google services.

2. Manage Ad Settings: Google uses your data to deliver personalized ads. You can opt out of ad personalization by going to "Ad settings" under "Data & personalization." Keep in mind that this won't reduce the number of ads you see, only their relevance to you.

3. Use Incognito Mode: Google Chrome’s incognito mode allows you to browse the web without your activity being saved to your browser or Google account.

4. Limit Google Assistant's Access: If you're an Android user, Google Assistant collects your voice and audio activity. You can manage these settings under "Voice & Audio Activity" in "Activity controls."

5. Delete Your Data Regularly: Under "My Activity," you have the option to delete your activity by topic or product, or you can delete all of your activity from a specified date. Regularly doing this can limit the amount of data Google holds on you.

6. Use Alternative Services: Consider using alternatives to Google services. For example, DuckDuckGo for search, ProtonMail for email, and OpenStreetMap for maps.

Remember, while it's not possible to use most Google services without surrendering some data, you have control over how much and what kind of data you share. Regularly reviewing your settings and understanding how your data is used can help you maintain your privacy while still enjoying the conveniences of the digital world.



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