TechViews News …..
This is Part 1 of a 3 part series.
Anyone who’s been paying attention to Google these past few years knows that Google is a massive collector of personal and private information. This data is collated and resold to advertisers, major retailers, medical and social groups, and even governmental agencies.
Facebook is quickly catching up with Google in that respect. However, Facebook’s collection process is more broad due to the affiliate groups it works with and its “friends liking friends” process of collecting not just your data, but everyone that you have friended.
Microsoft’s new browser, Edge Chromium, is pushing Microsoft into the same league as Google and Facebook by having Edge collect data the same as Google Chrome does.
But today I’ll focus on Google. The good news is that Google is finally starting to provide ways to search what data it has on you with a limited ability to delete that information over time. Facebook and Microsoft are still lagging behind in that respect.
First off, you must have a Google account to move through most of these steps. Google still collects data on you if you don’t an account with them through its Chrome Browser and Google search based on your IP address. But it’s your Google account that adds a scary layer of tracking on top of that. Who you email, who emails you, when it happens, your location, the email writer’s location, even your YouTube viewing history. Everything they collect about you they are also collecting about the people who email you. It goes both ways.
So we will focus today on those with Google accounts and leave those without Google accounts for another time.
Google collects far more personal data about its users than you might even realize. The company records every search you perform and every YouTube video you watch. Whether you have an iPhone or an Android, Google Maps logs everywhere you go, the route you use to get there and how long you stay — even if you never open the app. When you look closer at everything Google knows about you, the results can be eye-opening, and maybe even a little unsettling. Thankfully, there’s something you can do about it.
Starting this past June, new Google accounts will automatically delete private data for you – but only after 18 months by default. And only if you’re a brand-new Google user. That’s great if you’re just now deciding to create a Gmail address or you just got your first Android phone, but if you’re among the 1.5 billion people on Gmail or the 2.5 billion people using Android already, Google is set to hold onto your private data forever unless you tell Google otherwise.
We’re going to cut through all the clutter and show you how to access the private data Google has on you, as well as how to delete some or all of it. Then we’re going to help you find the right balance between your privacy and the Google services you rely on by choosing settings that limit Google’s access to your information without impairing your experience.
Find out what private information Google considers ‘public’
Chances are, Google knows your name, your face, your birthday, gender, other email addresses you use, and your password and phone number. Some of this is listed as public information (not your password, of course). Here’s how to see what Google shares with the world about you.
- Open a browser window and navigate to your Google Account page.
- Type your Google username (with or without “@gmail.com”).
- From the menu bar, choose Personal info and review the information. You can change or delete your photo, name, birthday, gender, password, other emails and phone number.
- If you’d like to see what information of yours is available publicly, scroll to the bottom and select Go to About me.
- On this page, each line is labeled with eithera people icon(visible to anyone), office building icon (only visible to your organization) or lock icon (visible only to you). Select an item to choose whether to make it public, semi-public or private. There’s currently no way to make your account totally private.
Take a look at Google’s record of your online activity
If you want to see the motherlode of data Google has on you, follow these steps to find it, review it, delete it or set it to automatically delete after a period of time.
If your goal is to exert more control over your data but you still want Google services like search and maps to personalize your results, we recommend setting your data to auto-delete after three months. Otherwise, feel free to delete all your data and set Google to stop tracking you. For most of the day-to-day things you do with Google you won’t even notice the difference.
- Sign into your Google Account and choose Data & Personalization from the navigation bar.
- To see a list of all your activity that Google has logged, scroll to Activity controls and select Web & App Activity. This is where all your Google searches, YouTube viewing history, Google Assistant commands and other interactions with Google apps and services get recorded.
- To turn it completely off, move the toggle to the offposition. But beware — changing this setting will most likely make any Google Assistant devices you use, including Google Home and Google Nest smart speakers and displays, virtually unusable.
- If you want Google to stop tracking just your Chrome browser history and activity from sites you sign into with your Google account, uncheck the first box. If you don’t want Google to keep audio recordings of your interactions with Google Assistant, uncheck the second box. Otherwise, move on to step 5.
- To set Google to automatically delete this kind of data either never or every three or 18 months, select Auto-deleteand pick the time frame you feel most comfortable with. Google will immediately delete any current data older than the time frame you specify. For example, if you choose three months, any information older than three months will be deleted right away.
- Once you choose an Auto-delete setting, a popup will appear and ask you to confirm. Select Deleteor Confirm.
- Next, click Manage Activity. This page displays all the information Google has collected on you from the activities mentioned in the previous steps, arranged by date, all the way back to the day you created your account or the last time you purged this list.
- To delete specific days, select the trash can icon to the right of the day then choose Got it. To get more specific details or to delete individual items, select the three stacked dots icon beside the item then choose either Delete or Details.
- If you’d rather delete part or all of your history manually, select the three stacked dots icon to the right of the search bar at the top of the page and choose Delete activity by then choose either Last hour, Last day, All time or Custom range.
- To make sure your new settings took, head back to Manage Activity (step 4) and make sure whatever’s there only goes back the three or 18 months you selected in step 5.
Whew, that’s seems like a lot of work, but Google makes sure it’s that way so that most people won’t take the time to drill down and change the settings.
But if you value your privacy then set aside the time and do it.
Part 2 in this series will cover How to access Google’s record of your location history.
Perhaps even more off-putting than Google knowing what recipes you’ve been cooking, what vacation destination you’re interested in or how often you check the Powerball numbers, the precision of Google’s record of your whereabouts can be downright chilling, even if you never do anything you shouldn’t.
If you’re signed into Google Maps or Location on a mobile device, Google’s eyes are watching your every move. It’s about enough to make you want to leave your phone at home.
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