By Brani Rogic of Common Sense Solutions
Launched in 1998, Google is the most used web-based search engine in the world. How often have you used or heard the term “Google it” to answer a question? There are definitely benefits of this powerful worldwide instrument for sharing and receiving knowledge between users that would otherwise be unavailable. In fact, Google’s mission is “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.
We’re talking about massive amounts of information here! While researching the writing of this article, I came across all the products and services that Google owns, and the list is mindboggling. There’s a catalog here if you’re interested. I was surprised by some of them, I bet you will be too!
With so many opportunities to be touched by Google, we should always be aware (and in control) of what Google does with these touches, and what we can do to protect our privacy.
The first and most obvious answer would be, don’t use Google. But if you went to look at the list stated above, you would see how nearly impossible that could be. There are other browsers – like Firefox – that have enhanced tracking protection to better protect your online presence.
If Google is your continued browser of choice, then you may as well understand what they collect and know about you. Here is Google’s disclosure about the information they collect as you use their services, https://safety.google/privacy/data and just a sampling of what they know about you:
When you do a search on Google, get directions on Maps, or watch a video on YouTube, they collect:
- Things you search for
- Videos you watch
- Ads you view or click
- Your location
- Websites you visit
- Apps, browsers, and devices you use to access Google services
When you sign up for a Google Account, you provide them with personal information. This information can include:
- Your name, birthday, and gender
- Your password and phone number
- Emails you write and receive on Gmail
- Photos and videos you save
- Docs, Sheets, and Slides you create on Drive
- Comments you make on YouTube
- Contacts you add
- Calendar events
I’m afraid of the time when one night I dream about something, and see a Google ad for it the next day!
Here are some things you can do to protect your privacy and avoid being spied on by Google:
- Know Your Privacy Settings. Manage these settings at https://myaccount.google.com/. Here you can choose what data is saved to your account, set data to automatically delete from your account, or review and delete data from your account
- Do A Privacy Checkup. Review and adjust what data Google uses to personalize your experience, and update what information you share with friends or make public. https://myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup
- Stop Your Devices From Listening. Manage the Activity Controls in your device, and turn off ‘Voice & Audio Activity’. This records your voice and audio on Google services to improve speech recognition, like when you say “Hey Google” to speak to your Assistant.
- Use Incognito Mode. Turn on Incognito Mode in Chrome, Search, YouTube and Maps. When you turn on Incognito mode, your activity (like places you search for or the videos you watch) won’t be saved to your Google account or saved on your apps and devices. Read more about Incognito Mode here: https://www.computerworld.com/article/3186941/you-are-not-very-incognito-in-incognito-mode.html
- Use A tool To Block Tracking. Here are a few tools available:
- Disconnect https://disconnect.me/
- Redmorph https://redmorph.com/
- Privacy Badger https://www.eff.org/privacybadger
In closing, be aware that the world of data collection and information tracking will only continue to grow as the Internet of Things increases. Know what info is out there about you, and know what apps and devices track your information. They can’t violate your privacy if they can’t collect your data.