If you use services like Google Maps, Chrome, Gmail, Google Drive or Google Hangouts, Google might know more about you than you think. While these services are free, in reality, you “pay” to use them by allowing Google to collect information that they in turn use for advertising. Though their empire began empire in search, the majority of their income now comes from ads.
Have you ever stopped to consider why Google offers so many incredible services for free? The answer is simple – the more accurate your profile, the tighter targeting they can deliver to advertisers, and the more money they make.
In other words, YOU are not Google’s customer; you are the product Google delivers to its paying customers, the advertisers.
What Does Google Know About You?
Keep in mind, you need to be logged into your Google account to see what information Google knows about you.
Ad Settings/Profile Information
Google collects information in many ways in an effort to build an accurate profile for each user. What profile information does Google have on you?
If your Android mobile device is connected to a Google account, Google knows where you went, on what day, at what time. Check it out for yourself here. You can also delete all location history on this page.
Google saves every search you have ever done along with every Google ad you have ever clicked on. View your search history here.
What Google Services are you using?
It’s easy to connect your Google profile to 10+ services without realizing just how much data you are allowing Google to access. Find out what Google services you are using here.
What Apps and Extensions Are Accessing Your Data?
See what apps and extensions are accessing your data. If you don’t read the fine print when installing an app on your phone, you’ll find that some apps are accessing your Gmail, your contacts, your calendar and more.
Google monitors much more than the videos you upload, they also track every video you watch. Youtube makes recommendations and displays ads for other videos based on your search and watch history. View your Youtube history here.
You’re Not the Only One Reading Emails in your Gmail Account
If you use Gmail, you might not realize Google is “mining” your inbox for any data that might reveal your preferences. They compare this data with other publicly available information to get a better understanding of what your interests are.
In addition to your email content, Google is also looking at your email contacts to figure out what competing social networks you belong to. When they find one, they suggest you manage the account with your Google account so they can have access to a host of data that would not otherwise be accessible to them.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Privacy?
1) You can prevent Google from Spying on Your Google Contacts here. Just check the box at the bottom of the page.
2) Opt Out of Those Ads That Follow You Everywhere
Let’s say you’re in the market for a new pair of running shoes. You browse a couple websites and suddenly everywhere you look, you see ads for running shoes. That’s Google’s targeted marketing at work.
You can control some of the data Google has on you here and opt out of interest-based advertising. Just keep in mind if you clear cookies in your browser, you will undo your opt-out preference and you’ll need to opt-out again. You can save your opt-out preferences permanently by installing the advertising opt-out plugin for your browser here.
3) Opt out of Google Analytics tracking here to prevent websites from tracking you.
4) Find an alternative to Gmail: To prevent Google from accessing all your contacts and reading your email, use a domain based email account or an email through your internet service provider.
Bonus tips: Google isn’t the only company who’s watching you. Get tips on opting out of other advertising networks below.
- Apple users: Learn how to opt out of interest-based ads here.
- Opt out of Facebook’s Social Ads here. Just click edit, then select none for each section.
- Get tips on opting out of other search engines’ advertising here.
In today’s world, many of the 150+ products Google has developed are deeply ingrained in our society, as a part of our everyday life. Most everything free has a price and some might say Google has a right to collect information in exchange for free use of such incredibly useful tools. After all, this data collection feeds their advertising programs that in turn support the development of these products.
On the other hand, Google’s motto is “don’t be evil”, so if you are uncomfortable with the amount of data Google collects about you, they do offer tools to limit the data they collect.