- As concerns about internet security and privacy continue to grow, we present a list showing just how much information Google has on the online habits of individuals everywhere.
In the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica fiasco, concerns about our security and privacy online have again been called into question. And as demands for data transparency continue to grow, netizens everywhere are quickly realising just how little control they have over their personal details and online security.
So inspired by a thread on Twitter explaining just how much personal information Google and Facebook keeps, we’ve put together a list of some of the ways Google knows what you’re doing, whether you’re aware or not.
1. Google knows where you’ve been and where you’re going.
Let’s start of with Google’s famous Maps platform, with its accurate location tracking and extremely detailed knowledge of almost every urban area in the world.
If you have Google’s location services activated on your phone, you can view a timeline of all the places you’ve ever been to since you started using Google on your device. The picture below shows the places I’ve been to in the past year, including my short roadtrip to Ipoh late last year (I didn’t take many vacations in 2017).
Google also tracks your movement in astounding detail, and knows how long you spend on the road (including how fast you usually go), and every single store or outlet you come into contact with.
Thankfully, Google also has the option to delete all your travel history with a single click.
2. Google keeps a record of your search history.
If you thought that deleting your browsing history on Chrome or Firefox was enough to remove all traces of your web activity, then you might be surprised (or not) to know that Google still keeps a detailed list of all your online movements related to Google’s services such as Maps, Chrome, and YouTube.
Taking a look at my colleague’s Google history, we came across records of his image search history, YouTube videos watched, and websites visited.
You can view your own activity here, and thankfully, you also have the option to delete all of it.
3. Google stores an advertisement profile based on your interests.
From all the information Google gathers, they also develop a personalised ad profile based on your interests. From my short time using my Google work account (4 months), Google had already figured out my interests presumably based on what I watched on YouTube, the keywords I input on the search engine, and the places I visited recorded through Google’s location services.
No surprise then how Google always knows what ads to present to you each and every time you go online. Check out your own ad profile here.
4. Google knows about every app and extension associated with your account.
Remember those games, apps, and extensions that requested your permission to be associated with your Google account? They’re also on file.
Google knows where you use them, how often you use them, and what you use them for. You can check your own list here.
Through the permission given to these apps and extensions, there now exists the mutual exchange of information between them and Google. So in all probability, Google also knows what sort of stuff you like on 9GAG, or how much you spend on microtransactions within your favourite mobile game.
If you’re not so keen on having these third-party applications sharing your information with Google, it’s best to revoke their access.
5. Google knows what you watch on YouTube.
This one you probably know about already, but if you didn’t: Google stores a history of the videos you watch on YouTube as well as the channels you subscribe to.
So in all probability, they’ll also know what kind of mood you’re in at any given time of the day, if you’re trying to learn a new skill, or even your political stances, just from the content you watch on its video platform.
6. Google lets you download all the information they have about you.
Most interestingly, Google has the option for you to download all the data it has of your activity in a .zip folder called a ‘takeout’.
This folder will include things such as your Google Drive files and photos, all your emails (Gmail), your calendar information, your Google Hangout sessions, the Google groups you’re in, and purchases made through Google among other things.
When I requested for my own takeout archive, I found that size of my folder stood at a staggering 3.2 GB. Taking into account that an 1,000-word document (.docx) file comes at around 14 KB, it was concerning to discover that Google possessed data about my internet habits that could fit around over 214,000 similar-sized word documents.
Looking into the folder, I was concerned but not surprised to see among other things all of my personal notes, data for my old Blogger accounts, as well as long-forgotten comments I made on YouTube years ago all laid out and accessible on an index page.
To obtain your own takeout folder, check this link.
It’s sometimes surprising how much personal information we place online on a daily basis, knowingly or unknowingly.
Looking at how much data mega corporations such as Facebook and Google have of us, it’s probably a good idea to reconsider our internet habits and pay extra attention to the things we say ‘yes’ to online.
Feature Image Credit: Modified from Extreme Tech