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 sort of data. But with all that data out there, the big question for every user is this: what does Google know about me?

Search Engines with Google

Google records all Google searches done through its search engine. They keep tabs on the websites you visit and compile a browsing history, regardless of whether or not you're signed in to a Google account. Once signed in, they can go one step further to keep a personal history of all you've done with the account specifically. They use this information to make search suggestions or personalize search engine results.

Additionally, Google uses the data it gathers from your search history to tailor ads specifically to users, which is a form of ad tracking. The best way to keep them out of your search history is to use a private browser altogether, but you can also clear your search history from your Google account periodically. There is not a way to keep them from tracking your searches entirely.

Google Chrome

Because Chrome is Google’s own web browser, they can see every website you visit through Chrome.  Furthermore, even if you didn’t search through Chrome or use a Google account, Google collects other information, such as your activity and location, through cookies. Your log-in information and a record of what you download from various sites is also stored through Chrome.

If you sync your account through Chrome, other information such as tabs, bookmarks, and autofill information will be recorded and shared between devices via your account. Essentially, Chrome stores any information you enter through the browser for various purposes; it’s by no means a browser that prioritizes privacy.

Maps with Google

Maps tracks a serious amount of information from users’ devices. It doesn’t only keep track of your basic travel information, such as where you went and the route taken to get there. Google Maps also records when you went down to the minute, how frequently you visit this location, your method of transportation, and more.

Maps saves all of this information. It goes in a detailed Timeline history that you can view on your account. If you have Maps on your phone, they are constantly tracking your location and gathering data.

What does Google know from my account?

The Google account is a big part of your profile, and it links everything together on all your devices. When you create an account, you give your:

  • Name
  • Birthday
  • Gender
  • Location

More than that, though, your account collects information from Maps, your search history, YouTube, your device, your ad interactions, and more. Creating an account also creates an email account. If you use that email, they have access to the work you do through that account. Make sure to clear out your Google account’s history so there's less information available to Google.

YouTube

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 whose data Google has access to. They collect your watch history and search history from YouTube.

This information helps them with ad tailoring and learning users’ likes and dislikes. Your search history and watch history also allow them to recommend new videos for you to watch, which keeps you on the platform even longer.

What does Google know from my phone?

Google also has access to Android devices as Android’s parent company. If you’re an Android user, Google is able to get the data from your phone’s search history and location history. The Google Play store is able to collect data about your app preferences and downloads. Any other information on your phone—such as text messages, call logs, calendar entries, and more—is available as well.

Waze

One of the popular alternatives to Maps is Waze, a GPS app that focuses on routing around traffic to get drivers to their destinations faster. However, Waze is also owned by Google; using the app as a Maps alternative won’t get you out from under their thumb. Waze collects plenty of data on users too. Due to the app’s focus on traffic-avoidant routes, Waze asks that users keep the app open whenever they’re driving, even if they aren’t using its GPS function.

This information is collected and sent to route other users around any slowdowns you encounter on your drive.  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.”

Alternatives

There are several more private alternatives to Google’s services if you want to stop Google from tracking so much of your personal data. For example, DuckDuckGo is a great web browser that doesn’t track users or collect any information. Using a different email service besides Gmail may be more costly, but it can keep your email out of Google’s hands. If you do use Google’s services, use them with the highest privacy settings to keep your information safe.