We live in a world where we leave a piece of ourselves online, whenever we browse or scroll through anything. Whether we like it or not, there is no denying the fact that a shadow version of ourselves gets left in the realm of the internet.
It might comfort the loneliest of people, to know that they aren’t as forgotten as they think they are. At the expense of their privacy, Google knows them better than most people.
It is no secret that the tech giant stores a massive amount of information on you. Information includes everything, i.e., from everything from the place of your employment to something as bootless as what you had for dinner last night.
Most of the information collected on you is used to target ads to you, and to create a profile for you according to your likes and dislikes.
Why does Google store information?
Some other reasons Google gives for collecting information include:
- Registration purposes: Just like the case with any other online service, Google receives data on you when you first sign up. The information collected includes basic things such as your name, age, etc.
However, a user can opt out of personalized ads by changing their settings.
- To better their service: Another reason why Google stores information is to maintain and modify the user’s experience and develop new features.
Google maintains that all the data is collected used mainly to target data and that security of its millions of users is a key priority. However, data stored on servers are still vulnerable to attacks from hackers and other people with malicious intent.
What information does Google collect?
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the reasons Google cites for storing and packaging your personal information, you might be wondering about what kind of data Google has on you.
Through Googles many services such as Google Photos, Gmail, Hangouts, Maps, etc. and other connected apps. The information collected can be divided into four broad sections:
Your online presence:
Perhaps the most apparent data that Google collects is regarding your online life.
Google has an enormous amount of information, specifying each website you’ve ever visited and every single ad you’ve ever clicked on.
Websites you’ve visited:
Google keeps tabs on every site you’ve visited in great detail. From the time you’ve spent on a particular site, to the posts you’ve liked and disliked- the tech giant knows it all.
Your browsing patterns/habits:
Along with the websites you’ve visited, Google also has a deep understanding of your browsing habits which includes:
- All the apps you’ve downloaded from the Google Play Store and the Chrome Web Store.
- The changes you’ve made in the browser settings.
- All the websites you’ve bookmarked
- All the passwords you’ve saved to chrome
- All the email addresses, phone numbers and contacts you’ve collected
- The number of Gmail conversations you’ve had
- The number of Google searches you’ve made
- What you’ve written in the search bar
Who you are:
With help from features such as facial and voice recognition and intuitive searching, Google has a strikingly good idea of who you are- both on the inside and the outside:
What you look like:
With help from facial recognition, Google knows exactly what you look like. Google photos have built-in facial recognition in them, which enables Google to single your face out from a bunch of other people.
What you sound like:
The inclusion of voice recognition in Google devices, through the Google assistant, allows the site to have a pretty clear understanding of what you sound like. The site keeps all of your audio commands, as well as your voice recordings.
What you believe in:
We’ve all at one point or another, searched Google for a politician we support, or for help in some religious matter. Well, through your browsing patterns and search history, Google stores all of this sensitive data and is fully aware of the fact that you might be Christian or Muslim, and who you’re most likely to vote for in the election.
How healthy you are:
Google also actively tracks how healthy or unhealthy you might be through GoogleFit. GoogleFit allows Google access to how many calories you burn each day, to the fitness level you aspire to reach.
Your personal details:
Through information collected via Google’s many services and features, the site has a pretty accurate idea of what makes you, well, you.
By tracking your online activity, Google knows what languages you speak and about that rash that has just started to appear on your back.
Every location you’ve been to:
Arguably, the best tracking that Google does is location-based, thanks to rapid developments in location recognition.
Apps such as Google Maps make it easy for the site to track every place you’ve set foot in, to where you spend most of your time and what restaurant you frequent the most.
Home and Office:
Android phones make use of services that Google, along with GPS has to offer and can interpret with accuracy where you live and work.
It may only take Google Now, a similar service to Maps, just three days to calculate exactly where you live.
Places you visit:
Other than your home and office, Google probably knows about the places you visit frequently.
If you’ve got a favorite grocer that you frequent, or if you visit your grandmother often, chances are Google knows the addresses to these locations too.
Places you’ve traveled:
In addition to the places you frequent, Google also knows about the countries you’ve visited.
Not only that, but the website also knows about the hotel you were staying at and all the famous spots you visited, along with the exact time, right down to the second, of your arrival and departure.
What your likes and dislikes are?
One of the main perks that Google has to offer includes personalized user experience, with search results and advertisements targeted towards you specifically.
Whether you like it or not, Google might actually know you better than your own best friend:
Food, books, and movies:
We’ve all searched for a spoiler-free review of the latest episode of our favorite show, and we’ve all searched for the pdf version of our favorite books.
Google knows all of this information regarding our likes and dislikes.
Furthermore, Google owns YouTube, which means that Google also has a thorough knowledge of the kind of entertainment you’re interested in.
Your shopping habits:
Through Google Shopping, the website is also made aware of your preferences in shopping. It knows everything from the brands you like to the amount of money you spend on clothes.
Moreover, based on interpreting your shopping patterns and browsing the history, Google also knows about the choices you might make in the future, and whether or not you’ll buy the laptop that you’ve been saving for.
How to prevent Google from tracking you?
After coming to terms with the amount of information Google has on you, you might be feeling a bit wary of the massive tech corporation.
However, you need to look no further, as mentioned below are some ways in which you can prevent Google from tracking and monitoring you.
- Use a VPN. A Virtual Private Network hides your IP address and prohibits Google from tracking your location as well as encrypting all of your data.
- Use the incognito mode on browsers. Many browsers, including Google Chrome, offer a private browsing option which doesn’t store any information in your search history.
- Change your location settings. Turn off location reporting from your settings to prevent Google from following you around wherever you go.
- Try using an alternative browser and search engine. To stop Google from surveying you at all times, try opting for an anonymity based browser such as Tor and a search engine such as DuckDuckGo.
- Delete your Google account. If you want to go rogue and prevent Google from tracking you forever, delete your Google accounts for the ultimate solution.
The ease that Google brings into our lives can’t be denied, but its constant tracking of every move you make on the internet raises a cause for concern.
To ensure your privacy and security, try using Google with VPNs for maximum protection.