The last week brought major tech giants and political parties in the spotlight over the poor handling of private data that led to a massive uproar. This was followed by several debates over what data should really be handed over to the social media websites and more so to Google which has access to all of the information that you didn’t even intend to share.
While the companies, industry experts, and regulators are still at loggerheads over the data privacy issue, the users are realising that it’s time to do away with these websites. The #DeleteFacebook campaign is still hot on social media websites, asking users to boycott Facebook in the wake of how it mishandled users’ private data. Some other major companies including Tesla and Playboy deleted their Facebook pages too. However, apart from Facebook, there is another tech company that nearly owns the Internet – Google.
Google has an umpteen number of services – from Web search engine to Android ecosystem – which powers a majority of smartphones across the globe. Everything that you share or register on your smartphone is squarely in records with Google. Google logs all your activities from waking your smartphone to opening apps.
But, you can control what Facebook and Google know about you, in addition to checking and installing the full record list. We explained how you can secure your data from Facebook previously. You can read the detailed step-by-step guide here.
Google extensively hogs up your Android smartphone, so it is obvious that it tracks every activity that you perform via different apps such as YouTube, Google Maps etc. If you want to check your data on Google Maps, you need to log on to Google Maps timeline page – http://www.google.com/maps/timeline – where you will see all the places you visited day-wise. The timeline feature will show your activities from 2009 onwards.
If you want to take a look and download the entire data of what you did on your Android smartphone, Chrome browser, or any other devices that are associated with your Google account, you can visit Google My Activity page – http://myactivity.google.com/myactivity. This will show you all the voice queries you made to Google Assistant, the time of opening the apps, your activity in the Google Play store, and what you searched on the Web using Google Search. All of your data is put chronologically that is only visible to you. However, the data is still available on Google and you can do nothing but stop using Google products to put an end to the trail.
In addition to the aforementioned activities, Google also keeps a track of your likes and dislikes so as to serve personalised advertisements to you. This is the main reason why you search for something on Amazon, and all other social media apps begin a mission to convince you to either buy it or at least take a look twice. Google has a dedicated page – http://adssettings.google.com/authenticated – where it shows the ads personalised by Google based on your online behaviour. The ads are from Search, YouTube, and other partner websites and apps.
While there is no way to turn this off, Google allows you to deselect yourself from being served personalised ads based on the online history. However, if you want to see advertisements further personalised for you, you are welcome to share your age and gender details with Google advertisers.
Now, coming to your Android smartphone, all the apps that you use come with a set of permissions wherein some are turned on by default while some require you to grant permission to. Google has a dedicated page – http://myaccount.google.com/permissions – where you can see all your apps and what permissions they require and have been granted by you. You can even revoke the access to them.
The final step to analyse all your data shared with Google stops at a very useful service from Google. Much like Facebook, Google allows you to take all your data away in the form of a downloadable file that further has classifications depending on the type of data. You need to login to Google Takeout page – http://takeout.google.com/settings/takeout – where you can prepare and download the archive of your data including photos, videos, and other media. It even has the music you listened to, videos you watched on YouTube and your smartphone’s native player, and the contacts that you stored on Google servers. The file will be usually bulky so you will need a lot of patience if you are pertinent to go through the entire records of your data.