How To

How to Manage Your Private Google Data

By Sydney Butler / March 24, 2018

It's hard to argue against the quality of the various services that Google offers. Personally, I use their products every day of my life. From Google Drive to Maps, somewhere there's a tool that does just what you want it to.

Google's motto might be "don't be evil", but they aren't a charity either. In order to benefit from the useful service they offer us, something must be given in return. In general, we don't pay directly for Google services, but there is an almost Faustian pact at work here. Like a data vampire, Google extracts juicy and valuable information from you. It uses this to make money in the form of targeted advertising and other valuable insights made from aggregate user data.

Do you even know what sorts of information Google is gathering about you? It's time to take control over Google private information appetite. Here's how to know what Google knows about you and do something about it.

Don't Ignore the Privacy Checkup

Medical Equipment

Google provides a simple Privacy Check-up that walks you through the major privacy decisions you need to make. This ensures that you know what info Google is keeping and where it is watching you. It starts off by helping you decide what happens with your photos and videos. You can also decide what Google does with your phone number, who can see your location and your Google+ profile settings. What? Did you forget about your Google+ profile? I don't blame you, everyone did.

Going through this checklist will help you control the future of your relationship with Google, but what about the things it already knows about you?

See What Google is Watching

Digital Spying Men in Suits With TVs for Heads

Everything you do is watched by Google and if you're logged into your Google account you too can see what sort of monitoring Big Brother Google is doing by heading over to  myactivity.google.com.

Here you'll be presented with a timeline of the things that Google has recorded. Every site, every app you opened in Android, the ads you were shown or clicked on. It's all here. Unless you diligently made use of Incognito Mode you might even find dodgy places you visited but then thought you had deleted from your internet history.

You can delete stuff from your activity one by one or wipe out entire time ranges. Using the My Activities dashboard as a jumping-point also lets you excise other types of data from Google's servers.

Purge Stored Device Information

Woman with Smartphone

If you've ever bought a new Android phone and logged in, you may have noticed that all of your contacts, apps and other information automatically download to the new handset. That's very convenient, but it also means that you trust Google with full copies of all that data.

To get rid of device information you don't want in the Google cloud go to Activity Controls.

Under "Device Information" click on "Manage activity". Right at the top of the page, there are three dots. Click on them and then choose "delete all".

If you don't want to allow Google to backup device data at all, just hit the big old slider at the top to switch the whole functionality off.

Get Rid of Your Location History

Location Pins on Map

If you didn't know, Google keeps a comprehensive record of where you've been as well as the time and date it happened. This can be some interesting information to browse through. It can be used to gain insight into your own movements. Google, of course, uses it to provide you with better recommendations and to preemptively provide you with traffic information.

To see your entire location history as Google has recorded it, just head on over to maps.google.com/locationhistory.

Imagine if you left your computer unlocked and logged in. Someone could call up the entire history of your movements based on this information!

Once you are on this page you can delete individual stops in your timeline manually. You can also click settings>Delete all Location History. It's up to you how careful you actually want to be.

Get Your Own Copy of the Database

Hard Drive Internals

If you go to myaccount.google.com/dashboard you can download a copy of all the information that Google has on you. You can also see everything they've recorded categorized neatly into their own sections.

All those blogs you forgot about? Google never forgets unless you explicitly ask it to. Even your search history and all the voice requests you've made are right there on the dashboard, so have at it and remove whatever you don't like.

Don't Be Evil

It's hard to avoid the Google family of products and services. Perhaps it's not even worth trying to completely de-Google your life. Still, you can make it an equal relationship by being aware of what you are giving up in exchange for convenience.

Many Google services won't work nearly as well if you purge your private info from them, but you have to ask yourself whether the trade-off is worth it for you personally.

There is no one answer that will fit everyone, so take the time to go through all the tools Google provides when it comes to personal privacy.

When it comes to protecting your privacy from those with fewer qualms about being evil, you can't go wrong with a top-class VPN. Try our personal favorite, ExpressVPN, and experience a safer, more friendly web.



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