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Many people would be surprised at the large volume of information that Google collects about them. It keeps records of your voice searches (“OK Google”), your web searches, where you’ve been, and what you’ve watched on YouTube. The main reason Google does all this is for advertising revenue. By tracking your habits and searches it can create a detailed profile about you to target you with advertising relevant to your location, interests and demographics. Google also collects this information to improve your use experience with its products.
Although Google has policies in place to protect users’ privacy and security, many people are uncomfortable with a company keeping such detailed information on them. There are steps you can take to limit Google’s storage of your activity. It will still track you, but the records are anonymized. They keep data about your anonymized data (metadata).
If you are not logged into a Google account but using Chrome, you can search in incognito mode. To do this, you click on the menu to the right of the web address bar. Choose “New Incognito Window.” A new search window will appear that will have an image of a figure wearing a hat, sunglasses and trench coat in the upper left corner. In incognito mode you can search without Chrome keeping a record of your searches or downloads in your history after you’ve closed the incognito tabs. However, this won’t hide your searches from your internet service provider, your employer (if using a work computer) or the websites you visit.
The other way to stop Google from tracking your activity is to modify the privacy and advertising settings in your “My Account.” Go to Google.com and click on the Google apps icon in the upper right corner (the box with nine dots). Log into your account. You will need to update settings in the personal info and privacy section. Click the link for Manage Your Google Activity. This is where you can pause tracking of your searches, location history, voice activity and YouTube searches. For each one you don’t want tracked, slide the dot in each box toward the left to pause it. Back out of that to the previous screen and then click on “Go To My Activity” under the review activity section. Here you can see your past activity for all the various Google applications. You can go in and delete your entire history for these here.
You can then go back to the main account screen and do the privacy checkup review. This section walks you through the various privacy settings you can choose based on what you’re comfortable with. For example, if you leave location history turned on, your map searches may be improved. This is also where you can choose whether to let Google make the ads you see more relevant to you by using your information.
Keep in mind that many popular online applications and social media sites have privacy settings that you can update. The defaults on these can change so it’s a good idea to periodically go in and review your settings for the sites you use.
Written by Karen Anderson
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Written by Karen Anderson
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