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What Does Google Know About You?

What Does Google Know About You?

Updated: 08-17-2021

Do you know that you’re being watched online? Data collection is what makes tech giants thrive. By collecting large amounts of your personal information, such companies sell your data or use it to create personalized ads to increase their sales.

For example, Google can manipulate your data thanks to the power of algorithms and then build a virtual image of who you are. They will then use this information to boost their revenue, and the worst part of it is you won't even know about it!

Now let's do the maths; there are over 4 billion Google users in the world. When Google fetches information from all of its users and sells them to marketers, the tech giant makes billions!

This statistic explains why Google is worth $420 billion, as of 2021.

In this article, you will find out how Google collects your information in the form of:

  • Social activities
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Geographical location
  • Financial status
  • Health
  • Sexual preferences
  • And more

Remember, if marketers can access your data, it can also be accessed by the government or other malicious people.

As a result, you won't be at peace knowing that hackers could also steal your data and use it to blackmail you. For your peace of mind, the article will also explain how to prevent Google from accessing your personal information.

Here's what we'll discuss:

  • Things Google knows about you
  • Why Google collects this information
  • Ways to protect your privacy

Things Google Knows About You

Google tracks your online activities through various tactics. The tech company has many applications and services that you spend time on, and in return, they collect your data. These include:

  • Chrome
  • YouTube
  • Maps
  • Hangouts
  • Books
  • Photos
  • Calendar
  • Waze
  • Google Search
  • Google Fit
  • Gmail
  • And more

Who Are You?

You'll be surprised to find out the amount of personal information this tech giant knows about you.

This multibillion-dollar company knows your name, gender, date of birth, languages you speak, close associates, etc.

But that's not all - the company digs deeper to craft a vivid picture of who you are.

It even knows how you look like!

Google uses facial recognition software developed by their talented team of developers and image tagging on Google Photos. The company can then build your identity from those details.

Did you know that Google knows how you talk? Yes, you read that right.

When you go to My Activity on the Google Search home page, you can see and hear your audio history. The audio collection derives from Google apps and third-party resources linked to them.

Google knows your political and spiritual beliefs. After recording your search history, the company constructs a profile based on your opinions. They can then use this data to predict whose side you’re on, politically.

Google also knows how healthy you are!

Have you looked up a certain health condition you are concerned about?

Are you wondering how to treat it?

If you searched for all that information online, then chances are Google is aware of your health condition.

The company will then use this information to recommend doctors or hospitals that offer the kind of treatment you are looking for. The data is even more accurate if you’re using apps like Google Fit.

Your Geographical Location

Devices such as smartphones allow you to sync your information with other devices you may have.

After connecting to a Wi-Fi or cellular network, Google uses GPS to access your location, eventually recording your habitual movements.

The tech company knows the places you frequent, location history, the length of your stay, and what you did. With this kind of information, Google can easily know where you live and work.

Here's an example:

Have you ever noticed that every time you are about to type a certain address into Google Maps, the app displays the exact address you were thinking about? When that happens, you'll probably be wondering how Google read your mind and suggested the same address of the place you wanted to visit!

This happens because Google keeps track of your activities and establishes a sequence.

For example, they know what time you clock out at work and the first place you usually visit after clocking out!

Sounds shocking, right? There's more to come.

To prevent Google Maps from tracking your activities, you might want to try an alternative app like Waze. Google, however, owns Waze, and any information collected links back to the company, helping them track you better.

Google even knows about your dietary restrictions when you watch videos about certain meals or through your religious and personal beliefs.

For example, if you are on a vegetarian diet, Google uses this information to suggest stuff like:

  • Vegan restaurants near you
  • Vegan recipes
  • Vegan meal prep
  • And more

Who Your Friends Are

Google’s strategy on acquiring your personal data requires the efforts of your close friends. They do so without being aware, as they are also being monitored.

Most people sync their contacts with their Gmail account; it’s safer right? But did you know that Google (owners of Gmail) can see your contacts, who you talk to, their emails, names, and phone numbers? Google can also see who is at the top of your most contacted list.

This company knows when and where you meet with people. The privacy intrusion occurs through your planned schedules on Google Calendar. Tracking can also happen when you take photos with friends and tag them.

Google knows your conversations by going through your emails. The information is then utilized to show advertisements and recommend websites unique to you.

Google not only scans texts but also videos and photos.

Not a Gmail fan? Well, you aren't safe either.

Google also scans emails of people not registered to the company. Monitoring happens when non-Gmail users send emails to people with Gmail accounts.

On Google Drive, Google knows what kind of information store in their databases. This explains why you'd be banned from a particular Google-owned platform for violating their terms of use.

After all, how would they tell you've violated their policies without monitoring your activities?

YouTube Interactions

Algorithms are well-designed computer interactions that improve a user’s experience or solve certain problems. These interactions can be as simple as multiplying numbers or complex instructions like making video recommendations on YouTube.

To create an effective algorithm that creates accurate recommendations, the program needs to be fed data. It will then synthesize the data, recognize patterns, learn, and make better predictions.

Google collects this information when you:

  • Browse for specific content on Google 
  • Watch certain videos
  • Click on or hide ads
  • Buy anything online
  • And more

Data is also gathered when you use Google Books, Google News, or Google Shopping. When Google knows your likes and dislikes in terms of food, books, movies, or videos, they use this information to suggest ads that suit your needs or situation.

Your Future Plans

Do you want to learn a new skill online? Or are you planning to go on vacation?

If you searched for any of those things on Google or YouTube, this tech bigwig is preparing related advertisements for you.

Why Google Collects this Information

Google does an excellent job at hiding why they collect your information. The company answers this question in a way that seems to benefit you, even though it does the exact opposite.

In their defense, Google claim to serve your needs better when they have more data about you. They supposedly collect your data to make your online browsing experience even better.

Why Google Uses Your Data

The company collects information to recommend YouTube videos based on your search and watch history.

Google also provides a better experience with Google Maps, helping you access certain locations faster.

For example, when stuck in traffic, Google Mas can suggest an alternative router that's faster. This suggestion is possible because the company has information about your destination.

Google also uses your data to help you get accurate search results.

The tech company makes the autocomplete function on their search engine more precise by knowing more about you.

Additionally, the autofill function on Chrome makes it easier to log in to your favorite websites.

Lastly, Google Assistant can also help you be more productive thanks to its artificial intelligence feature that performs automated functions at home, such as playing music, setting reminders, etc.

What Are the Consequences of Data Collection?

According to studies, human error is the cause of 95% of cybersecurity breaches. Even if Google could make your experience smarter, faster, and more useful, data storage is liable to hacking.

When that happens, your private data could fall into the hands of a third party and can be used against you.

Security on the internet is an important issue in the 21st century, thanks to data breaches occurring rapidly.

Such breaches occur because most companies don't have enough infrastructure to protect customer data, making them vulnerable to data loss. Google can therefore be a data mine for hackers, and the information could be sold to other marketing companies at your expense.

Examples of data collection consequences include:

Threat to Personal Security

Google Street View on maps shows your location to everyone, and this can lead to privacy invasion. The detailed location information supplied on Google Street view can be a resource for robbers and other malicious individuals. 

Annoying Advertisements

The Home Personal Assistant helps you turn lights on/off, makes temperature adjustments, allows you to set alarms, book flights, add items to your schedule, and so much more!

But on the other hand, Google can use the information provided to the AI or overheard in your conversations to suggest targeted ads.

Targeted ads are advertisements specifically tailored for your needs.

Ever Googled something and then noticed a similar advertisement on other websites?

With the information collected from your browsing history, Google contributes to impulse buying. This can be damaging financially, especially for individuals who do not know how online advertising works.

Impulse buying is when you buy goods or services without prior plans to do so. In most cases, it happens due to a sudden excitement, especially after viewing an ad.

Third-Party Company Manipulation

When Google sells your data to third parties, they can manipulate the information as they wish.

For example, privacy concerns are widespread with free apps; developers make profits from data sales and advertising within such apps.

But the worst part of it is competitors may also try to gain access to your data and use it for their purposes through data breaches.

Government Surveillance

Google is not the only company that sees your data. The government could be inspecting your data during transmission or at its storage location in the cloud.

The government can also profile you easily through accurate identities formed using Google’s algorithm. Access to the data eventually allows spying by the government.

Data Breaches and Lawsuits

When your data is stolen, this can lead to lawsuits being filed against you, among other consequences. The data breach can also damage your reputation if the information accessed was private.

Hackers Can Access Your Data

Did you know that when you delete your emails, they are never completely gone? Google still keeps them for up to 60 days. When hackers access the emails, they invade your private space.

Hackers can retrieve your information through phishing scams, spam emails, etc. They can also hijack:

  • Usernames
  • Passwords
  • Credit cards
  • Bank account information
  • And more

After accessing your credit card information, they can steal your money, make unauthorized purchases and ruin your credit. Your Social Security Number be used to perform other cybercrimes due to identity theft.

Data Mining by Other Google Companies

Google acquires some companies without announcing to the general public. The companies act as data collectors for Google without the user's knowledge.

Examples of companies under the Google umbrella include Boston Dynamics, DeepMind, Express, etc., all without the Google logo.

So if you focus on avoiding Google, chances are you are unknowingly using another platform owned by this tech bigwig.

How Can You Protect Your Privacy Online?

Understandably, it is likely that you're wondering how to protect your private information online after discovering what Google knows about you.

Here's what to do.

After signing in to Google, go to My Activity - you'll see your recorded history.

Next, download a copy of your data. Here's how to go about it:

  1. Go to Google Takeout
  2. Select All or pick an app if you want specific data
  3. Scroll down
  4. Select Manually
  5. Scroll down to the bottom and click Next
  6. Choose your file type and archive size
  7. Select Zip format and 50GB file to get all your data in one place.
  8. Select Email to receive your download link
  9. You can also choose Google Drive, Dropbox, or One Drive.
  10. Click on Create An Archive

The download time is directly proportional to how much of your data is stored.

 

Cookies

Cookies are data pieces collected by websites when you visit them. They help lighten the load on the server’s memory and facilitate fast entry into a website, allowing you to get to the page you want quickly.

Cookies also help personalize your online browsing experience by saving data you would need to input all the time.

However, cookies have their disadvantages.

First, you will continually be bombarded with ads on products you’re trying to buy. Companies can also collect cookie data and use it for analysis needed to run marketing campaigns.

Secondly, cookies do not store your data securely, and anyone can tamper with them. Such data breaches in cookies can lead to privacy invasion as your online activity transfers from private to public knowledge.

For this reason, it is advisable to clear cookies after every few days or weeks, as they might contain personal information.

How To Clear Cookies on Google

To clear cookies on Google, follow these steps:

  • Launch Google Chrome.
  • On the top right corner of your browser, you will see three dots.
  • Click on the three dots.
  • Go to Settings.
  • Go to the bottom and click on Advanced.
  • Go to Privacy and Security.
  • Click on Clear Browsing Data at the bottom.
  • Click on the checkbox next to Cookies And Other Site Data.
  • Untick other checkboxes containing information you don’t want to lose.
  • Select the time range of how far back you want to delete your cookies.
  • Select Clear Data.

Signing out of all your Google accounts, including Google Analytics, could also help eliminate digital footprints.

Digital footprints are the traces you leave behind when browsing the internet.

How To Opt-Out of Google Analytics

  1. Type Opt Out Of Google Analytics on Google.
  2. Click on the first link from the search results.
  3. Select language, and click on the button that appears to get your browser add-on.
  4. Read the terms and conditions.
  5. Accept and install.

Switching to incognito mode is also a great alternative to prevent Google from storing your browsing history. If that doesn't work, you can adjust your privacy settings by turning off the location on all your devices.

SSL Activation

Consider using encryption tools to protect your emails, especially before sending important information like passwords, bank details, etc.

You may also activate SSL on your Gmail app - this feature is usually turned off by default because it slows down the app's performance.

But when off, the slight security lax can be an avenue for a data breach.

Here's how to reactivate it:

  1. Go to Settings under General Tab
  2. Scroll down to the bottom
  3. Click on ‘Always use http’ under Browser Connection Settings.

Another possible alternative is to turn off suggestions on the Chrome browser. This feature provides suggestions based on popular sites, searches, and the text entered.

Google logs the text on its servers, but you can stop this quite easily. Here's what to do:

  1. Head over to the Google Chrome browser on your PC.
  2. Click on the three dotted lines at the top right corner of the window
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Click Sync And Google Services.
  5.  Move the toggle next to Autocomplete Searches And Urls to the left.

You can also avoid targeted ads by turning off tailored advertising in your Google browser settings.

How to Change Your Privacy

  1. Log into Google and go to My Account
  2. Run security and privacy checkup

You can then adjust or solve any issue. The process allows you to manage your activity like Website and apps, location history, device information, voice and audio activity, Youtube, and Search history.

To prevent access to your data, you can also delete your browser history through the following steps:

How to Delete Your Google Browser History

  1. Sign in to your Google Account.
  2. To delete your Google Chrome browser history, click on the three dots at the top right corner.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Scroll down to Advanced.
  5. Go to Privacy And Security.
  6. Scroll down to Clear Browsing Data.
  7. If you want to delete specific data, uncheck the other boxes.
  8. Select the time range of deletion.
  9. Next, go to Delete Google Search History.
  10. Go to My Activity.
  11. Click on the three-dotted menu.
  12. Select Delete Activity By.
  13. Choose to delete by date.
  14. Select All Time
  15. Click Delete

In addition to deleting your browser history, you can also turn off logging on your browser for the best results.

If you decide to delete all your Google accounts or avoid all Google apps and any Android device, you may consider the following alternatives:

  • Duck Duck Go instead of Google Search.
  • Proton Mail instead of Gmail.
  • Vimeo or Bitchute instead of Youtube.
  • Tizen instead of your Android device.
  • Microsoft Edge or Firefox instead of Google Chrome.
  • MapQUest or Open Street instead of Google Maps.
  • Dropbox or sync instead of Google drive.
  • WordPress as a Blogger alternative.

A Quick Solution Alternative

Your online presence is constantly being monitored through your IP address, which provides so much information about you. Sadly, most of this information is usually private, and you wouldn't want it to land into the wrong hands.

To maintain utmost privacy, you'll need to hide your IP address, and that's where a Virtual Private Network comes in.

A VPN redirects your data through encryption layers to ensure no one but you and the intended recipient can access the information.

Installing a reliable VPN can take your privacy standards up a notch without reducing your internet speeds.

A VPN also lets you access geo-restricted content and shop at discounted prices, among other benefits, all from a secure connection.

People use Google for different reasons, either personal, professional, or recreational.

However, privacy concerns are a big issue within the tech industry; there is a need to stop such tech bigwigs from collecting private data. Suppose you'd like to browse the internet privately and securely without worrying about the possibility of hackers, ISPs, or even the government tracking your activities. In that case, it's time to invest in a great yet affordable VPN!

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