It is really passé to ask what Google knows about me. Instead, we should be asking ourselves what it does NOT know about us – and how we can minimize the vast amount of personal data it collects on us via its growing array of services and features.
Google is so free and so easy
We get hooked on Google first at the search engine level. Just type – or speak – the desired search terms and up comes the answer. It’s on the tip of our tongues as a search engine, and there is a good reason for that as it has an estimated 76% global share of the search market. And while we search, we encounter the 70% percent of all websites that are tracked – either from its own trackers or those of its subsidiaries such as DoubleClick, partner firms, and also the websites that have embedded Google trackers in their pages.
Even though Google is seen as a search engine, it is really an advertising company that uses technology to sell more ads. Over 70% of the companies revenue comes from advertisements. The past company motto in the past was “Don’t be evil,” today we can safely say that the motto is “More ads, more precisely.”
Can you show me your ID please?
Google tracking is especially effective because of the popularity of the major Google products and features – and the Google ID attached to them. When we register for a Gmail account or get an Android smartphone, those free services come with a unified user-ID. This is the Gordian knot that ties the Google world together, giving them a precise way of accounting for most everything we do online – much, much more than just those emails. Besides, they swear that they no longer mine your emails for potential ads. This ID follows you and your Google account around to all of your devices.
Trackers, trackers everywhere and just a bit of privacy
Google trackers are present in around 70% of all websites, either directly from Google, through its family of subsidiaries as DoubleClick, or embedded directly by the site owners. We encounter them during the entire search process, from the initial queries down to a purchase. Because these trackers can finger you according to your ID, they allow Google and its minions to tweak the search results to your past interests. This in turn enables them to serve ads which are more likely of interest to you. Add in the Chrome browser, which incorporates your ID, and you have handed Google access to your browsing activity and history.
This is just the start of the Google ecosystem and its embrace of your online life. Don’t forget to add in Google Maps, Waze navigator tracking your location and travel history, YouTube for your music and video preferences, and the Google Assistant for your voice as you inquire about the weather conditions.
Just what are you giving Google?
Here are three perspectives on how your data is collected: The physical you with data on the way you look, sound, and live; the areas of social interest in your life; details on your daily regime.
The physical you
- Personal information about you such as age, phone number -your registration details
- What you look like – all those tagged photos
- Your voice – recorded by Google Assistant
- Physical level of activity – motion sensors and navigation
- Health issues – search topics
- Contact details – registration details
- Information on hobbies and interests – search topics, pictures
- Friends – contact lists, emails
- Political and religious activities – search topics
- Social life – Google Maps, search
- Past and future vacations – search topics, shopping, YouTube
- Where you live – Location, Google Maps,
- Sleep and working times – synced device use
- Daily transportation – Google Maps, Waze
- Shopping habits – search
- Favorite sports and books – search
- Food preferences – search, YouTube
- How often you have visitors
There are a lot of points not included on this list — and maybe some that don’t apply to you. But it should be just enough to make you nervous.