How to find out what Google knows about you

How to find out what Google knows about you

When you see ads on Google, you may have come across one that seems to know what you are thinking - that's no accident.

When you are signed in to a Google account, the search engine uses all the information it gathers from you to target the ads to something you are more likely to engage with. So what information does Google hold on you and how does it find out?

Quite simply, it tracks which sites you visit and what you search for. It can also track your location so it can determine where in the world you are. There are a few useful sites you can visit within Google to find out what information is stored, as well as the ability to limit how much is gathered.

By visiting adssettings.google.com you will see how your ads are personalised. It is likely that your sex and age group will be displayed, along with an estimation of your interests based on your search history. By visiting myactivity.google.com you will see your search history. Then by visiting google.com/maps/timeline you may spookily see places you have visited anywhere in the world as well as your home and work address if you've given that information. All this data linked together gives Google an extremely powerful tool.

The only way to avoid Google harvesting your data is to never use a gmail account or sign in to their service. But given that billions of us do, there will now be a way to limit how much information can be stored.

Google is now rolling out a feature that allows all data to be deleted after either three or 18 months. By logging in at myaccount.google.com and choosing 'Web & App Activity' within the Data & Personalisation' tab, you can restrict the amount of the time Google can hold this data.

Google says the information they hold makes for a better user experience. "The activity you keep helps Google make services more useful for you, like helping you rediscover the things you've searched for, read, and watched," they say, while adding that this data is secure and protected. While that is reassuring for many, at least you now have more knowledge on how to limit or eliminate your personal data from Google.

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