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What Information Does Google Know About You?

Google knows more about you than you think. As comedic as this may sound, there is a rather serious and not-so-jovial element to all of this.

Statistically, it is safe to say that more than half of us have used Google’s services at some point in our lives. In the early 2000s, just a handful of years after the inception of Google, over 30 million searches were being marked daily. Today, the figures are galactic. Four billion people are online (have access to the internet), which translates into the fact that Google hogs practically all of the search engine market share. Daily, over 3 billion searches are conducted which means over one trillion searches per year. What could be more impressive than that? How about the fact that 80,000 or so searches are conducted every second. Now, this information concerns only one platform, Google Search. Billions of people also use GMail, GDocs, Google Chrome, Google Maps, and a host of other Google services. What does all of this mean? It means that Google probably knows you better than some of your family members do.

How Google Gathers Information About Internet Users

Google and all services related to or owned by Google track information. For example, consider the following list and whether or not you have access to one of the following;

Google Chrome
Google Ads
Google photos
Google Hangouts
Google Shopping
Google Books
Google Maps
Google Fit
Google News

And last but not obviously not least, the most used of them all, Google Search. You probably have access to at least three of the above including Google Search. From all of these services combined, Google can track;

Your location
Your shopping preferences
Your photos
Your contacts
Your personal credential information
Your entertainment preferences
Your other interests
What you search for
What you plan to do

With so much data, ultimately Google knows almost how you think. Think about it, Grammarly (the famous grammar-checker tool) is an extension that scans all of your text. This extension works with Google Docs. Also, a simple look at Google Analytics also tells all. So, how does Google use all of this information, and why do they track it? Is it not an infringement of privacy? Well, the answers to these questions are; Google mostly uses this information to run Google Ads tailored to each user, which makes them a lot of profit -they even run YouTube off of Ads and sponsors. Also, Big Data collection agencies use this data to train artificial intelligence algorithms, aptly named ‘Big Data.’ Secondly, yes it is an infringement of privacy -what is not an infringement of privacy online these days? This is exactly why, after several scandals, ethical and moral pressure, as well as fear of losing customers Google has built in so many ‘consent’ and ‘data privacy’ options into all of their services today -just like other big tech corporations have. This is also why millions of people are flocking away from the mainstream towards alternative solutions. Google’s platform is not exactly transparent or ‘fair’, which is frankly not atypical of a gargantuan multinational corporation, so one should not exactly be shocked. More importantly though, what exactly can you do on a practical level to reduce how much of yourself you are offering to Google on a platter?

Tips to Consider That Help Google Knows Less About You

There are a few things you can do to protect your privacy, personal information, browsing information, and drop fewer bread crumbs all over the internet that can be traced back to you. Take the following steps, that do not require advanced knowledge of a computer or a lot of time to set up either, into consideration;

Switch off location reporting options in your Google apps
Switch off your YouTube watch and Google search history (‘Pause’ it)
Use an alternative search engine such as DuckDuckGo
Use a privacy-focused browser such as Brave, instead of Google Chrome
Check your Activity Controls in your Google apps and services, delete at will
Use a VPN or Virtual Private Network to cloak your internet connection
Switch off any ‘Ad Personalization’ or ‘Usage Statistics’ wherever you encounter it

All of this could incite some panic in those that were previously unaware of how much information they are putting out there. However, there is no need to panic. If you are reading this, you most probably are not an international fugitive. Google is such a large, overarching, ever-present software architecture that has been around for so long that most of us just automatically use Google’s services and find no reason whatsoever to consider an alternative. In much the same way, for a long time the billions of users have been nothing but numbers to Google, until Ads, ‘Big Data’ came along and surveillance scandals like those revealed by whistleblowers like Snowden blew the lid off of what the industry was doing. For those of you that want to drastically reduce your digital footprint, there are some ways to do it. One would be to browse via Tor browser over a VPN on a different device or a VM (Virtual Machine), connected to a random public WiFi hotspot, log in with random usernames that do not point to your identity, and never log in to social media, post photos or turn location services on. It all depends on what you want to accomplish. If your goal is to get Google off of your back, then the tips in the above list should suffice. If your tip is ultimate anonymity, in other words sacrificing practicality for certainty and peace of mind, then never logging into any of Google’s services from the start -or better yet never logging into anything- is the only real option.

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