Google Privacy 101
That’s not all, though. We weren’t exaggerating when we said Google has an iffy history with user privacy. Here are just a few scandals (out of many) the company has been involved in over the years:
- A class action in the UK back in 2017 accused Google of being behind the unlawful “harvest” of personal user data.
- A Google software error, back in 2015, was responsible for the leak of approximately 300,000 websites’ personal info.
- Google “accidentally” released data on “right to be forgotten” requests back in 2015.
- Also in 2017, Google was found to be collecting Android device location data by using cellular towers.
Safe to say, if you have a Google account or use the service often, you have plenty of reasons to be worried about your privacy. Fortunately, there is some good news too – Google is at least pretty transparent with what data they collect, and offer users a certain degree of control over their data.
How Google Handles Your Data
- Information you yourself offer – That would include things like your name, username, mobile phone number, or credit card number (the kind of info you type in when signing up).
- Information Google collects from you using their services – That would include data like device information, location data, cookies, or log information.
Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Google knows about you. Check out our in-depth guide to see exactly what info they collect.
Overall, Google insists they need to collect so much data in order to improve their services and offer you a better online experience by showing you relevant and personalized content and ads.
On the bright side, if you have a Google account, you can access your account’s Dashboard through this link, and manage the data collected by Google – to a certain extent, naturally.
The easiest way to get started with that is to run the Google Privacy Checkup. It’s a pretty straightforward process that will help you adjust your account’s settings to ensure Google isn’t able to collect every single bit of info regarding your online activities.
While you’re at it, you can also run the Google Security Checkup to better secure your Google account against potential hacker threats. True, Google accounts are usually less susceptible to falling prey to cybercriminals, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
When it comes to ads, Google does its best to exploit everything they know about you and your online activities through your account so that they can bombard you with relevant ads. While some people might find that convenient (being exposed to ads that could be useful to them), many feel like their privacy is being violated – which is 100% understandable.
The good news is that, if you run the Google Privacy Checkup, you can easily turn off Ads Personalization. That means you’ll be less likely to be exposed to relevant ads. Just keep in mind that doesn’t mean you won’t see any more ads on the internet.
Yet another thing you can do through your Dashboard is to download all the data associated with your account. We usually recommend doing that if you ever plan on deleting your Google account.
Other Privacy Tips Worth Mentioning
- In case you don’t run the Google Security Checkup, consider turning on 2-factor authentication on your own. You’ll have a better chance of protecting your account data this way. Just access this link, and click on “2-Factor Authentication” on the right as you scroll down.
- It’s a good idea to use a browser’s Incognito Mode as often as you can – especially if you want to do some private online browsing.
- Ideally, you should clear your web browser’s history, cache, and cookies on a regular basis – at the very least every 2-3 weeks.
- Whenever you’re finished using Google for the day (or any website you use your Google account to sign into), don’t forget to log out. That goes double for when you’re using a public computer or public WiFi.
- If you want, you can try using a burner phone (basically, a separate phone you’ll only use for your Google account and nothing else) instead of your real phone number with your Google account. You could also try out this app to see if it works.
- If your phone allows it, use a Screen Lock feature to secure your mobile device. At the same time, you could try using a password manager to safeguard your account password(s).