Google (includes many different Google services) is one of the largest companies in the world. With so much technological involvement, Google has many ways of collecting and utilizing information from users. Every Google services you use—Chrome, Maps, Gmail, even YouTube—gathers some sort of data.
Search Engine with Google Services
Google records all searches done through its search engine. They keep tabs on the websites you visit and compile a browsing history. That is to say, regardless of whether or not you're signed in to a Google account. Once signed in, Google can go one step further to keep a personal history of all you've done with that Google account specifically.
Google uses 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 Google out of your search history is to use a private browser altogether, but you can also clear your Google search history from your Google account periodically. There is not a way to keep Google from tracking your searches entirely.
Chrome with Google Services
Because Chrome is Google’s own web browser, Google can see every website you visit through Chrome. Furthermore, even if you didn’t search through Google or use an 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 Google Chrome.
If you sync your Google account with Google Chrome, other information such as tabs, bookmarks, and autofill information will be recorded and shared between devices via your Google account. Essentially, Google 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 Services
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.
It saves all of this information in a detailed Timeline history that’s accessible on your Google account. If you have Google Maps on your phone, Google is constantly tracking your location and gathering data.
Your Google account is a big part of your Google profile, and it links Google together on all your devices. When you create a Google account, you give Google your:
More than that, though, your Google account collects information from Maps, your search history, YouTube, your device, your ad interactions, and more. Creating a Google account also creates an email account. If you use that email, Google has access to the work you do through that account. Make sure to clear out your Google account’s history to keep the information Google has to a minimum.
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. Google collects your watch history and search history from YouTube.
This information helps Google with ad tailoring and learning users’ likes and dislikes. Your search history and watch history also allow Google to recommend new videos for you to watch, which keeps you on the platform even longer.
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. Any other information on your phone—such as text messages, call logs, calendar entries, and more—are available to Google.
One of the popular alternatives to Google 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 Google’s 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.”
There are several alternatives to Google services that can be more private to use. 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 as secure as possible.
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