What Google Knows About You

What Google Knows About You

December 3, 2015 by Holly Rollins

Untitled design-7Because of Google Inc.’s impressive market dominance, it comes as no surprise the multi-billion dollar company knows a lot about its users. Recently rated number three on Forbes’ World’s Most Valuable Brands list, the tech giant tailors services and ads for each user by monitoring past search history and location. Civil lawsuits, including a 22.5 million dollar fine in 2012 for violating privacy agreements, have forced Google to be very transparent, telling users exactly what information they collect on their privacy site. In addition, users can modify and manage activity controls in their account settings.

A recent article published by Tech Insider highlights some of the main concerns for privacy buffs and how to make adjustments. Your web and app activity data are turned on by default on both iPhone and Android devices because they are tied to your Google account. Google is constantly tracking your activity when you search for something on the Chrome browser or use one of their apps to improve the user experience. Users are able to easily delete recent or all of their web and app activity in their privacy settings under “Activity Controls.” Also, if given the okay, Google has access to users’ location history and creates a private map in order to provide improved map searches and faster commute routes. Just like web and app activity, this feature can be managed under “Activity Controls” and turned off.

Many Google users still don’t know that because they have a Gmail account, they also have an automatic Google+ account. In 2014, Google made it possible for all Google+ users to search first and last names in order to find another user’s email addresses. The Guardian describes why this raised a huge privacy concern, as people were receiving emails from users who didn’t know them or didn’t have their address. This feature is defaulted to allow anyone to email the user via their Google+ profile unless modified in settings of the Gmail account. Users can adjust the settings to allow their circle, extended circle or no one to email them through Google+.

In the digital age, it is important to understand how tech giants analyze user metrics and in some cases, sell insights to advertisers. Users should research and manage privacy settings while keeping track of ever-changing user modifications.