If you’re on the internet, there are high chances that your activities are being tracked and your data is being sold to brands to target specific kind of ads or learn a specific kind of user behavior to create products and services to be in tandem with user preferences.
In fact, you’d be surprised by just how much data Google collects about you. Luckily, there are some pretty easy ways you can check.
The Google vault
For one thing, just take a stroll past myaccount.google.com. And no you don’t need to even bookmark that. Just sign into Google (Gmail and Chrome both work), click on your profile picture in the top right, and hit the blue ‘My Account’ button. On this landing page you’ll find a huge section for ‘Personal info and Privacy’, right smack dab in the middle. That innocuous section my friend is the repository of everything Google knows about you.
Where you go, I go
What might already be obvious is that, aside from your name and email address Google also knows your birthday and phone number. However, Google also knows wherever you go in your day, thanks to Google Maps. On something called your Google Maps Timeline, it uses a combination of GPS on your Android and other data points to pinpoint where you travel, how often, and by what kind of transportation. Sure, this may seem incredibly creepy to you, but there’s a purpose to it. It’s easy to access right from the Google Maps menu because the feature could be a godsend if you leave your smartphone in a cab
I spy with my giant eye
Most importantly however, is the ‘My Activity’ page, accessible from the same panel we showed you up top. Now this is a comprehensive list of pretty much everything you do across all Google-powered platforms. It’s got not just your Search and web history, but also your updated contacts, and what apps you accessed during the day (if you’re an Android user).
I know what you like
Like Facebook, Google also extensively collects data about you for advertising, making a profile of sorts in the process. This is based on your browsing and viewing habits while logged in, and you can have a look at the entire list of tags attached to your name here.
So this is what you watch all day?
Unfortunately for you, Google also keeps tabs on the videos you watch on YouTube all day. Not just that, it also records the searchers you perform on the site, even if you never watch a video from the results. It’s not a giant secret though, just visit the ‘History’ link through your YouTube menu and it’s all right there. You can even delete stuff so that YouTube doesn’t show you content related to it in the future. Probably best no one ever sees the multiple My Little Pony links eh?
Reclaim what’s yours
To download your Google data, just visit takeout.google.com to download whatever you feel like. This includes search and YouTube data, Maps History, stuff from your Drive, Gmail and Calendar, the works. Once that’s done however, you’re still going to have to delete your data if you want to truly be off the grid.
Just throw it all away
Google is somewhat better in this fashion, offering you multiple options to customize how much data you share, all in one place. Remember that photo of the Account panel from the top? Just hit the ‘Privacy checkup’ button and it’ll walk you through a step-by-step procedure allowing you to unsync whatever you don’t want Google to have, even if it’s absolutely everything. The company also allows you to not just deactivate your Google accounts, but to delete any data the company has, in the very same place.
Frankly, the possibilities are endless. And a lot of it begins from your use of some of Google’s popular product and services. However, if you want to stop your privacy from getting hampered and take control of your data, here are five ways you can stop Google from tracking you.
Disable Location Tracking
We all know that our smartphones are fitted with GPS. On Android smartphones, Google is known to track your location and suggest you places or things to do in that location. But it doesn’t end there. With this data, it can target ads to you about places you visit more often or its neighborhood.
To disable this, just go to https://myaccount.google.com, where it’ll ask you to login using your Google account. After that click on your profile image which is to the top left corner of the screen. After that hit Google Account > Data & personalization > Location History > and then switch the slider to ‘Paused’ mode.
Disable Email Tracking
Getting an email from a random marketing company is pretty common. However, did you know that companies can track whether the email sent to you has been opened by you? Moreover, they can even get to know the number of times the email has been opened. This happens due to a feature called Pixel tracking.
To disable email tracking on your Google account, simply enter your Gmail account settings, which you can get into by tapping the small gear icon on the top right corner of the screen > Once in settings, scroll down until you see the ‘Images’ section > select ‘Ask before displaying external images.’ Don’t forget to scroll down and save changes. And you’re good to go.
Disable Audio Recordings
While Google Assistant might seem like a smart way to execute day-to-day tasks using your voice, whatever you say, gets recorded and stored with Google. Moreover, this data is sent to real people to listen and transcribe everything you’ve said.
Moreover, Google has admitted that the Google Assistant on its Home smart speaker records your voice and other audio, when you hit assistant activation keyword, ‘Ok Google’ or when you hit the mic button. What’s worse is that it also records audio from a few seconds before. To avoid this creepy situation, enter your Google Account > Data & personalization > Voice and Audio Activity and hit the switch to pause.
Clear Your Purchase History
Love shopping on Amazon or other e-commerce websites? Chances are Google knows what you’ve bought (with the sale receipts coming in your inbox) and it would want to tempt you by showing you deals related to things you recently bought.
If you want to put an end to this, head to https://myaccount.google.com/purchases and click on ‘Gmail confirmations.’ Once you’re in, sort the item you want to remove, then select ‘Remove Purchase’ > ‘View Email’ > Hit the three vertical dots on the right side of the screen > ‘Delete this message.’ Sadly you’ll have to do this for every email on your list.
Abandon Google Search Entirely
The best way to stay completely free of tracking is by abandoning Google search entirely. There are various search engines that allow track-free browsing, the most popular one being DuckDuck Go. Also, avoid using Google Chrome browser from your computer and mobile alternately, it is a good idea to use Tor web browser adds another layer of privacy for its users while preventing it from tracking. You can also use Brave browser or you can try from our list of Best Anonymous Browsers For Private Web Browsing. If you can’t let go of Google Search, just make sure that all the browsing conducted is done with your Gmail account logged out.
Try these tips and you’ll be a step closer to a secured and track-free browsing experience.