We all know that Google knows a lot about us – where we travel, what time we wake up in the morning and where we last went on holiday.
But, do you know how Google collects this information about you?
Thanks to this handy guide, put together by TheBestVPN, you can find out exactly everything Google knows about you and how it does it.
Why does Google know so much?
Every time you use a Google product, it will be collecting information about you.
That means whenever you search for something using Google Search or use the Google Chrome web browser, the company is collecting this data.
That means apps download from the Chrome Web Store and Google Play Store, all the website addresses you've entered into the address bar, the pages you've bookmarked, and how many Google searches you've made this month.
As well, it's also collecting information through Gmail, That Ads, Google Photos, YouTube, Maps, Calendar and Google Hangouts.
So, what does Google actually know?
What you look like:
Google knows what you look like, thanks to facial recognition in Google photos.
How you sound:
If you’ve ever used voice commands with the Google Home or another Android device, then Google will have a log of how your voice sounds.
The site keeps a full history of your audio commands, including voice recordings.
If you’ve ever used Google Fit, then that means Google has a good overview of your health, such as how often you work out to how many calories you burn.
Even if you don’t use the dedicated fitness app, then depending on your searches, it can build a picture to work out if you’re sick or dealing with a medical issue.
Everywhere you’ve ever been:
Thanks to Google Maps being so useful, Google’s location tracking technology is pretty much following you everywhere.
If you have an Android phone then Google will be recording your location through things like Wi-Fi, GPS and cellular networks. It can tell where your office is, your favourite coffee shop, and the places you’ve travelled on holiday.
Who your friends are:
Last week, it was revealed that third-party developers were reading Gmail messages to improve their services.
If you use Google’s email service, then the corporation can see who you spend most of your time talking to online, and if you schedule a coffee date in your Google calendar, where you’re meeting them too.
What you like and dislike:
Using the vast amounts of search engine data generated, Google can build up a profile or recipes you’re looking at or book titles you’re planning to buy, to see the things you like and dislike.
And don’t forget the company owns YouTube, so it can see the music you listen to and the films you’re planning on watching.
Google uses all this information to create a profile of the things you’re interested in so you can be served ads based on these interests.
What you will do in the future:
Planning on booking a trip in the future? Google can use data from their applications and search engines to make predictions about what you will be doing in the future, such as restaurants you’re planning to eat at or countries you want to visit.
This is all incorporated into your profile so you receive better online ads.
Is this is something I need to be afraid of?
Looking at all the data Google knows about you can seem a bit terrifying. But, the company has made it easier to adjust your privacy controls if you’re concerned about how its using your information.
If it’s location reporting you’re concerned with, you can turn off tracking in Google Maps. If you don’t want Google to see the different websites you’re visiting, then you can use the browser’s incognito mode.
Simply visit Google’s privacy site to find out how.
Aside from this, in the post-Cambridge Analytica era when people are becoming aware of how tech companies are using our data, it’s bringing this concept for data literacy to the fore.
Data literacy is having the ability to read, work with, analyse and question data.
Jordan Morrow, global head of data literacy at Qlik told the Standard that this is important for two reasons. One, it’s good for companies if their employees can read and analyse data but also it’s good from a personal perspective so you can understand how companies like Google use your data and what privacy steps need to be taking.
“We have all this data being created and organisations want to use it but they’re realising that there is a skills gap amongst their employees,” said Morrow.
According to a recent survey by Qlik, 90 per cent of European graduates find themselves hampered by data literacy. That’s why companies and universities including Kingston and Bournemouth, are using Qlik’s data literacy programmes across the world to give their employees and students the vital data skills they need.
The big question, however, is if we all become data literate, will this end the data scandals we have seen this year?
“If you had a totally literate society, I think it would make these scandals few and far between because people would be alert to what is happening to them. If you’re data literate you know what’s happening to your data when you click yes to cookies, for example,” explained Morrow.
“There will always be people trying to manipulate and use data for bad purposes but at least arming people to understand and ask the right questions means they have the ability to stop things like Cambridge Analytica from succeeding.”