What Does Google Know About Me?
Google is one of the largest companies in the world. With so much tech involvement, they have a lot of ways to collect and use information from users. Every Google apps service you use—Chrome, Maps, Google Workspace, Gmail, even YouTube—gathers some type of data. Some users should even ask what data Google collects from their phones. But with all that data out there, the big question for every user is this: what does Google know about me and how do I protect my data?
What does Google know from my account?
If you have a Google account, it’s essentially the cornerstone of your profile; it links everything together on all of your devices. But creating a Google account requires that you submit a decent amount of personal data. When you create a Google account, you give Google your name, your birthday, your gender, and your location.
But Google goes even further; with an account, it collects information from Maps, your search history, YouTube, your device, your ad interactions, and more. Creating a Google account also create an email account. If you use that email, Google has access to the work you do in that account. Though you may not think that your Google account is significant in the grand scheme of Google data collection, it ends up allowing Google to gather even more intel.
What does Google know from Google services?
Most people who wonder about Google’s data collection are thinking of Google’s various services. From the Google search engine and the Chrome browser to Google Maps and Google Calendar, Google monitors all the data that goes through these applications. Below is a breakdown of some of the specific information that Google collects from various services.
Search engine data
Unsurprisingly, Google collects all Google searches done through its search engine. It keeps tabs on the websites you visit and compiles a browsing history, even if you aren’t signed into an account. Once you do sign in, it goes one step further to keep a personal history of all you’ve done in the Google search engine. Google uses this information to make search suggestions and personalize search engine results.
Google also uses search engine data to tailor ads to users in a form of ad tracking. Though Google claims it doesn’t “sell” users’ personal information for advertisements, it does build individual user profiles and allow advertisers to target people based on the data it collects.
Google Chrome data
Because Chrome is Google’s own web browser, it can see every website you visit through the browser. Much like the Google search engine, Chrome monitors web activity and compiles a browsing history for each user. But even if you didn’t search using a Google account, Google collects other information through cookies. This includes your activity, location, and login information on sites you visit.
If you sync your account through Chrome, Google also gains access to tabs, bookmarks, and login information via autofill as they share this information between devices using your account. Essentially, Chrome stores any information you enter in the browser for various purposes.
Google Maps data
Google Maps collects a lot of data from users’ devices; it doesn’t just log basic travel information. It records where you went, down to the minute you arrived; it monitors how frequently you visit locations, your method of transportation, and more. Maps uses this information to create a detailed Timeline history that you can view on your account. Furthermore, if you have the Google Maps app on your phone, Google is constantly tracking your location and gathering data.
Many people use Waze as an alternative to Maps in hopes of gaining more privacy. However, Waze is actually owned by Google; any data Waze collects goes straight to Google. Because of the app’s focus on traffic-avoidant routes, Waze asks that users keep the app open whenever they drive, even if they aren’t routing a path. According to Google, Waze “collects data for every road driven with the app open.”
If you leave your default settings on, Waze also has permission to check your location even when you aren’t using the app to “get reminders for planned drives, updates about bad traffic, and parking assistance.” All this data goes to Google.
YouTube is the Internet’s most well-known video sharing site, but it’s impossible to create a YouTube account without having a Google account. This means that YouTube is yet another site that gives data to Google. Google collects your watch history and search history from the video platform.
They keep track of YouTube searches, likes and dislikes given, and comments written, as well as which creators you subscribe to. This information helps Google tailor ads and suggest certain content. Your search history and watch history also allow it to recommend new videos for you to watch, which keeps you on the platform even longer and repeats the cycle.
Additional Google apps
Any Google application is fair game for data collection. This includes Google Pay, Google Calendar, Google Voice, and Google contacts. Google can gather information about your financial situation and habits, what you’ll be doing on a given day, and more.
What does Google know from my phone?
If you have an Android phone, Google has access to it as Android’s parent company. If you’re an Android user, Google can access the data from your phone’s search and location history. The Google Play store can also collect data about your app preferences and downloads. Any other personal data on your phone – such as your phone number, text messages, call logs, calendar entries, Google photos, and more – is available, too.
If you don’t have an Android phone but use the Chrome browser or Google search engine app, Google can access and record that data just like they do on desktop applications.
What to do about Google’s data collection
If you want to stop Google from collecting data, monitoring your activity, and profiling your online habits, the best thing to do is to stop using Google altogether. Try switching to a more privacy-focused browser or private search engine; Tor and DuckDuckGo are two great options, as they don’t track users or collect user information.
You can switch to a different email server, which may cost more but will help you keep your information away from Google. Using a different GPS app is another way to help, as is using YouTube without an account.
However, if you do want to keep accessing Google services, the best thing to do is regularly clear your Google account history. You can’t eliminate all of your data, and Google will already have logs on it, but this at least ensures they can’t keep it for extended periods of time. You can delete your web & app activity, your location activity, and your YouTube activity from your Google account settings.