14 Creepy Things Google May Know About You
You're not going to believe all the info Google has on you...but it's true. And here's what you can do about it.
Everywhere you’ve gone
Google keeps track of your location history—as reported by your mobile device (assuming your “location” is on), according to Rami Yermiya, a cybersecurity expert and founder and president of Dignotion, a New York City digital marketing technologies company. Check out your location history at your Google Maps Timeline, and you’ll see how comprehensive it actually is. Don’t enjoy feeling like you’re being tracked? You can change your settings here, as well as delete your location history, however, law enforcement can still subpoena your location history, meaning, essentially: you even if you delete it, it’s not really gone. However, there is an easy way to see and delete all of your Google activity.
Everywhere you’re going
When you Google “my flights,” you’ll get a list of all your upcoming air travel plans. According to Yermiya, this info is pulled from your emails, which makes it even creepier. Google isn’t the only technology that is invading your privacy—find out everything your smartphone knows about you. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much you can do about it if you’re buying tickets online and using Gmail as your point of contact. And that brings us to…
The contents of all your emails
If you use Gmail, then Google is going to have access to the contents of your emails. There’s not much you can do about this (except deleting your Gmail account), but you can tell Google not to use your Gmails to target you for advertisements. Check your Google Ad Settings and you’ll have the option to turn off your “ads personalization,” Yermiya advises. Note that doing so won’t turn off all advertisements and won’t stop Google from collecting your info. Turning off “ads personalization” won’t stop Google from learning about you via any other information you allow them access to. But it will keep them from accessing your profile! So consider carefully before you click to “OFF.” Check out these cybersecurity secrets hackers don’t want you to know.
Your approximate age
If you haven’t turned off “ads personalization” in your Google Ad Settings, you can scroll down to see the dossier (er, “profile”) Google’s put together on you. The first thing that pops up is their guess at your age range and sex. It’s Google’s guesstimate, based on the information they’ve collected about you. Google isn’t the only one targeting you, here’s how to turn off Facebook’s creepily accurate advertisements.
Every single site you’ve visited
If you check out Google’s My Activity page, you can see a historic timeline of your web activity…as in, every website you’ve visited. It’s kind of shocking to see it laid out like that (and it’s accurate to the very minute!). At least Google promises that only you have access to this information (assuming that you, as opposed to someone else in your house…or your office…isn’t the one checking your Google Activity right now). Also, you can delete your history (on the left hand side of the page, click on “Delete activity by.”) While you’re doing tech data maintenance, make sure you check these iPhone privacy settings.
Including your favorite shopping sites
Actually…make that all the shopping sites you visit. You can search your site history by filtering “shopping” to see and delete your history. Or, if you click “Other Google Activity” on the left-hand side, it’ll take you to a whole list of other things Google knows about you based on your online decisions. You can view and delete your “product price tracking” and “Google Shopping order activity.” Take a minute to check out these warning signs that the shopping site you’re visiting is actually fake (and about to steal your money)!
And your hobbies and interests
In that big old “Other Google Activity” list you’ll be able to see (and delete!) what Google thinks it knows about your hobbies and interests. This can range from American football to cooking to pets. Of course, Google uses all that information to suggest search results and products that you might like, which can be useful, but they also use it to target advertising (and make billions doing so). It’s another reason you should clear your cookies from your phone on the regular.
Your phone number
On the left-hand side of the My Activity screen, if you click on “My Account,” you’ll be taken to your Account Screen. In the middle column of that page, click on, “Your Personal Info,” and you’ll see precisely that: all your personal info, including your phone number. You might even have entered it into your Google Account yourself way back when. However, if you don’t want Google to have your number, click on the right-arrow, and you’ll have the option to delete it. Speaking of phone numbers, here’s how to protect yourself from scam calls.
Everything you search for on Google
At the center of the My Activity screen, you will see a box with the heading, “Visited: Google – My Activity.” And it’s precisely what you’re worried it might be: a list of every single Google search you’ve done. You can delete your search history by left-clicking on the three dots at the right-hand corner of the box. You’ll be given a choice of “delete” or “details.” Before you get started searching again, find out 19 cool Google tricks you probably never knew existed.
Your YouTube history
From My Activity, go back into Other Google Activity (remember, it’s on the left hand side of the page). Right at the top, you’ll see a number of YouTube-related headings. These include your YouTube comments, your YouTube Community Post comments, your YouTube survey answers, and even your YouTube “Not Interested” feedback. The word “delete” features prominently below these headings, and you may wish to do just that. Here’s how Facebook is stalking you, and how to make it stop.
Things you do on the websites you visit
“Google doesn’t only collect data about you with their own browser, search engine, and other services, but also by tracking you on other websites,” a spokesperson for the app Ghostery, tells Reader’s Digest. “According to a study by Ghostery and Cliqz, Google is the largest operator of third-party tracking scripts.” One way to battle back is to use an anti-tracking tool (Ghostery is such a tool). These are the red flags someone’s tracking your cell phone.
You know how Google Chrome always asks you if you’d like it to save your password? It’s convenient, yes. But it’s yet another piece of information you may not want Google to have about you. If you’ve already stored your password and are having second thoughts, here’s where you remove it…as well as your passwords for other sites you saved passwords for while using Chrome. And please consider using secure passwords, which is what these 25 passwords are not.
Maybe everything you said after “OK Google”
The audio recordings setting is optional, but it’s definitely worth checking your account to see if it’s turned on or not. Go to Activity Controls, and you’ll see “Web and App Activity” with a toggle switch that’s either blue (on) or white (off). Below, there are two checkboxes: One in which you can allow Google to save your Chrome history and activity, and one which reads “Include audio activity.” If you click on “learn more” next to the latter one, you’ll be able to read about why Google saves your voice commands, and what it does with the data. But if you don’t want your voice to be in Google’s vaults for all time, simply leave the box unchecked and your audio data will not be saved. Don’t miss these 8 other things in your home that could be spying on you.
Any info you add to any Google products you use
If you’re using Google products to manage your contacts, your calendar events, your photos, your videos, or your documents (hello, Google Docs?), please be aware that all the information you think you’re sharing with only yourself, you’re actually sharing with Google. Google also knows the devices you’re using Google on. Feeling less than secure right about now (with regard to your online privacy)? Let’s not put all the blame on Google. If you have an online account with any of these sites, your online privacy could be in danger.