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What does Google know about you?

Everything.

Literally everything.
Even if you don’t explicitly choose to share, Google sneaks on every single thing you do in real life. Wherever you go, whatever you do, every move you make, every step you take, Google has got you. Google, apart from providing you with the best-in-class products, never charges you for that? Because you ARE the product. You are the their ultimate bait.

Location History:

A recent investigation by the Associated Press has revealed that Google tracks your movements regardless of whether you have disabled the “location history” setting. Many Google-related apps on Android & iOS will store your location history even if you’ve used a privacy setting that asks the company exactly not to do so. In fact, when you install an app on your smartphone, Google is upfront about asking you to turn on your location, especially an app like Google Maps, which constantly reminds you to turn on your location so that it can access wherever you are. And if you agree to it (most of you certainly would), it will record every single movement and make a record of it in Timeline that maps out your daily movements.

If that’s not all, your movements have been used by police to determine the location of suspects – such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. That’s funny and creepy at the same time.
Even if you have “paused” your location history, some Google apps occasionally store time-stamped location data without taking permission from its the user. The Google Maps recommendations or the Google Weather & Forecast or the Google News alone are some of the apps that pinpoint how you are being watched by the huge Google servers every second, as these apps classify your interests based on your location.

Interests:

It’s not surprising to believe that even your interests are not safe on Web. You come here to get sold, however if you’re completely oblivious of this fact, you can’t be blamed. Actually the whole Google environment has been designed on the concept of it feeding on your interests, your choices, your likes. And it helps Google generate revenue through Google AdSense. (I would like to give here the analogy of a beautiful HBO series Westworld, in which the Delos company grooms on it’s hosts to collect data based on their choices in the park.) That’s just what Google does. It feeds on your interests. And yet, this is what they call “improving people’s experience”.

Searches:

Even if you search something which is not even remotely related to your location, such as “choco chip bagels” or “new movie releases”, Google retains your precise latitude & longitude, saves it to your account and later uses the data to show you ads of companies that provide those services in your location.

  • Web & App Activity:

This is another setting in your Google account that has a repository of all the data about which app you log into or what activities you perform on your Android phone throughout the day. Leaving “Web & App Activity” on and turning “Location History” off only prevents Google from adding your movements to the “timeline,” its visualization of your daily travels. It does not stop Google’s collection of other location markers. However, you can delete all those location markers manually, at myactivity.google.com, but it’s a painstaking process, unless you want to delete your entire stored data.

Last year, a business media site Quartz claimed that Google was tracking Android users by collecting the addresses of nearby cellphone towers even if all the location settings were turned off. Google changed the practice and insisted it never recorded the data anyway. Critics say Google’s insistence on tracking its users’ locations stems from its drive to boost advertising revenue.

Why is data collection by Google a main concern?

  1. Google knows everything you’ve ever searched- or deleted. Google stores search history across all your devices. This means that even if you delete your history from one device, it still may have your history stored from other device.
  2. Google knows where you’ve been and what you did last summer.Google stores your location each time you unlock your phone. You can see a timeline of where you’ve been from the very first day you started using Google on your phone.
  3. Google knows all the apps you use. Google stores information on every app and extension you use. They know how often you use them, where you use them, and who you use them to interact with. That means they know who you talk to on Facebook, what countries you are speaking with, what time you go to sleep and who you sleep with. Not the last one exactly, but Google is getting there.
  4. Google has your YouTube history. Pause your watch/search history all that you may, Google sneaks on the type of videos you watch everyday, and the trends in your searches. So they probably know if you’re going to be a parent soon, if you’re a conservative, if you’re an enthusiast, or if you’re a Hindu, or a Muslim, or if you’re feeling suicidal, if you are learning how to lose weight, or to cook, or even how to kiss.
  5. Google has a whole advert profile ready for you. It creates a unique advertisement profile of you based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobby, career, hobby, interests, relationship status etc. and shows you appropriate ads related to that data.

The data Google has on you can fill millions of Word documents Google offers an option to download all of the data it stores about you.For a reporter who requested to download it saw that the file was 5.5 GB big, which is roughly 3 million Word documents! This link includes your bookmarks, emails, contacts, your Google Drive files, all of the above information, your YouTube videos, the photos you’ve taken on your phone, the businesses you’ve bought from, the products you’ve bought through Google.They also have data from your calendar, your voice recordings from conversations with Assistant, your Google hangout sessions, your location history, the music you listen to, the Google books you’ve purchased, the Google+ groups you’re in, the websites you’ve created, the phones you’ve owned, the pages you’ve shared, how many steps you walk in a day, how many times you…..

How can you stop this from happening?

As mentioned earlier, to prevent tracking, you need to turn off another setting called “Web & App Activity”.To do so on an Android device follow these steps:

  • Head to settings.
  • Tap on Google then Google Account
  • Tap on the data & personalization tab and then on web & app Activity
  • Toggle Web & App Activity off

To turn off location history:

  • Head to the Data & personalization tab as above
  • Tap on location history and toggle the setting off for each phone or device connected to your Google account

To do so for iPhones, iPads and computers

  • Open Google in your browser and sign in to your account
  • Click on your profile picture in the top right corner and on the Google account button
  • Click on Personal info & privacy then my activity
  • Click on activity controls
  • Toggle off web & app activity

To review and delete your recorded activity, including location data, Google’s My Activity panel allows you how to delete individual and group events. You can also delete your location history in your Google Maps timeline by clicking on the bin icon.

In today’s era, no big tech giant works on ethics. So ultimately, you have to take charge. Big tech has realised it can afford constant data-based scandals because not enough people care that the minutiae of their daily existence are being relentlessly mined and monetized without their informed consent. This apathy is, in part, attributable to the fact we are told we shouldn’t care about privacy if we have nothing to hide. Google has helped propagate this notion. Not only big companies like Google, Amazon & Facebook have become too big to fail but also seems too big to be ashamed. (Take Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scam or it’s the latest data breach, for example, or Google+ coverup of data exposing the bug, leading to it shutting down) So, you should object to moments you thought were yours alone, being captured, analysed and monetized.
You should resist being commodified.

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