How Invasive Is Google When It Comes To Personal Data?

Google certainly enjoys an almighty status in the world of technology, due to its omnipresence. Whether you are searching for a query or you are writing an article, you mostly end up doing a Google search or opening a Google app. Google collects data from the users who use Google search, or Google app to enhance its services for end users.

In other words, we can’t go through a day without using a Google product, making collecting user data, a cakewalk for the tech giant. And if you own an Android-powered phone, then your whole life depends on it.

With this immense power and access, Google has done limitless data mining. With ML and AI tools, all this data could help in knowing a user more. Isn’t it scary to think that Google might know more about you than you know about yourself?

Though, as per Google’s privacy policy, Google assures that the data collected is secured and can’t be stolen or misused. Is it enough?

Undoubtedly, we receive a fair share of information and convenience with the data we share, but is this it? Did we really sign up for this?

It is clear that Google knows about us. Let’s know how much Google knows about us!

Data Mining Process

data mining

First, we need to understand the whole data mining process carried by Google. The tech giant uses two ways to collect data.

  • Active Collection

When a user willingly uses Google product and provide personal information such as by signing up for Google email account, Gmail.

Let’s say you are using Gmail for sending and receiving emails, then your emails are under scrutiny to study and know what kind of ads could be targeted.

If you are using Google Photos, all your photos are stored on the cloud, which works for your convenience. But don’t you think it could be a nice little trick to keep a check on you and steal your data?

Well, as it is said, if you are not paying for the product, you are the product! Alluring you to get Gmail account, sign up for Google Photos, all of this helps Google to know more about you. By knowing more about you, they can fulfil their main purpose of a searcher and can deliver relevant ads.

It is a give and take sort of arrangement, they allow us to use their product and in return use our data to deliver relevant ads.

Google is exceptionally well in doing so. Not a single time have I searched on Google and haven’t gotten an ad which I like.

  • Passive Collection (Implicit Data)

Just as the name suggests, it is an indirect method of collecting data. In this method, the user data is accumulated without the user’s knowledge using other means such as Android OS or Google’s ad tools. Some examples of passive data are:

  1. The browser of a user
  2. The default language of a user
  3. A Facebook unique user ID which is sent by Facebook while you are in conversation on Facebook messenger
  4. User’s device type

The data collected along with the extensive reach results into a personalized user experience. Well, this doesn’t only benefit us but also earn revenue for Google through targeted ads. The major part of the revenue of tech giant comes from the ad business.

How Much Google Learns About You In A Day?

Unlock your phone and go to Google Maps app. In case you don’t have the app installed, you can go to a web browser and log in. Locate and click on the ‘hamburger’ icon and tap  ‘Your timeline.’ Under Your Timeline, you can view your whereabouts about the current day. You will be surprised to see the details about where you were, at what time and for how long. This is not it, you can also view travel time between location along with details, whether you are walking, driving or using another mode to commute.

With Google Maps, you can figure your way out. So, from finding a mode to commute, locating the quickest route, searching for a restaurant to eat, paying for lunch using digital wallet. All of this could be done directly or indirectly by using Google. Not only this, if you have a Gmail account, then your emails are under scrutiny and are scanned for generating targeted ads. It works for our convenience as well.

Well, you must think it is not new information. Google collects our data in many ways, the primary mode being us using the services. However, this is not the entire truth. Google has the ability to track your activities even if you have disabled the option for Google.

Google’s help page earlier said, “ You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

However, a while ago, a change in Location History page was noticed, it now says “setting does not affect other location services on your device.” Moreover, it acknowledges that “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”

While some of us find it useful but for some of us, it is pretty intrusive.

No matter, you have Android, iOS or  Chrome device, Google can access your data in one way or another.

According to research by Douglas C.Schmidt, Vanderbilt University, Google collects 11.6 MB and  5.7 MB per day from Android and iOS respectively.

With all this information, you might have a lot of other things in mind such as how and why Google track your location, why using tracking you is a problem? Let’s know about it!

Why And How Does Google Track Our Location?

We are surrounded by Google. Say, we need to know a route to the nearest subway station (Google Maps), search for the latest news of the region (Google News), locate the neighbouring restaurant (Google search/Maps), or pay with a digital wallet (Google Pay), the company controls everything.

When we use Google services, a deal is inevitable, and we need to trust them with our data. Whenever we search Google for something, watch a video on YouTube or get directions on Google Maps, Google collects our data to use it for ad purposes and in the process, the data collected works for our convenience as well.

Device information, IP address and cookie data are some other ways which are used by Google to accumulate data. Even the voice searches on Google are stored.

The main objective of Google tracking users’ location and accumulating data is to support its advertising, therefore, getting monetary benefits. The most disturbing thing about this whole process is that Google lies to us that data accumulation is done to benefit users.

Is Google Tracking Location A Problem?

As per various reports,  stuff like weather updates and searches not even remotely related to location are being given to Google without user permission.

If a user has turned the Location History off, then ideally the location history should not be tracked. However, it is not at all the case.

Moreover, cookies that are supposedly used for advertisements and search preferences, also track us for monitoring. A post revealed Google cookies also called as PREF cookies, can be used to recognize us and this could be used for many dangerous purposes, worst being hacking your computer.

Can You Delete Your Old Data?

No matter whether your location history is enabled or disabled, some Google apps can save your time-stamped location data without your permission. Fortunately, you can delete your data.

To delete your data, you need to type on the address bar and sign in and head to Activity Controls(located at the left side of the page).

Can You Delete Your Old Data

Here locate Web & App Activity and disable it. Further, turn off Location History. This will stop Google from tracking your location.

Can You Delete Your Old Data-1

During this process, you will be warned by Google that some of the services, such as Google Home and Google Assistant would not work.

Note: Entries on the page can be seen in either Bundle view or Item View. We have kept the entries in Item view.

Can You Delete Your Old Data-2

On the same page, go to any of the entries which have a location icon next to Details. Upon clicking, you will get a window which comes with a link that says ‘From your current location’. Click on it and it will take you to Google Maps, and you can view the place where you were at.

To delete, you need to click on three stacked dots and choose Delete to complete the action.

Can You Delete Your Old Data-3

To remove all of the entries, you need to scour them item by item and delete as per your wish.

Is There A Way To Stop Google From Storing Your Location Data?

Can it really be done? After all these explanations and research results, we have almost given up on it. As all it takes is connecting your device to the internet, to get your IP address mapped geographically. Moreover, your location can be known via the cell towers, with which your smartphones are connected.

If you really want to know how much Google has on you, then you need to go to the ad settings page. You can check your profile which Google has built. Upon checking the list, the things we got to know were quite shocking. It knows your age group, your gender, your preferences and more.

These results didn’t leave us stupefied, rather horrified us on how exposed we are. Well, luckily, you can turn this ad personalization thing off. Good news, one less creepy thing to worry about.

Another thing which makes us feel more vulnerable, Google’s Dashboard, you can view the entire data here which Google has on you, even get a copy of it. Google gives you the option to delete it. However, we still didn’t know whether this wipes our data from Google completely or not.

Moment Of Truth

Well, Google’s trap seems nearly inescapable and due to its extensive range of tools, it is almost impossible to do without. Wondering, whether there is a chance to change it? Either boycott the whole Google Search & party or find a workaround to deal with it smartly.

Let us know about both!

Digital Detox: Get an Identity Protection Tool

Google is definitely something we can’t do without. However, there is a smart way to prevent Google from intruding our privacy by using an identity protection tool. One of the best identity protection tools, Advanced Identity Protector can help you protect your sensitive information from being misused.

advanced identity protector

Let’s know more about Advanced Identity Protector:

  • The tool scans for identity traces such as credit card information, email ids, login credentials, social security numbers and more.
  • These digital identity traces can either be deleted or moved to an inbuilt Secure Vault to prevent any fraudulent or unauthorized activities.
  • With the addon feature of storing passwords, the tool is more helpful and enables you to keep all your passwords in a single place accessed only by you.
  • With the encrypted vault, the information becomes easily accessible and it will eliminate the need for saving the passwords on your browsers.

So, you can get Advanced Identity Protector and get rid of the unnecessary stress of your precious data being stolen.

If you really don’t want to do anything with Google, then you can read this How To Get Google Out Of Your Life to know how you can make your life Google free.

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