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Check out your Google History

People talk about how Google is tracking you, but not many know that Google makes a lot of what they know available to us. You can check out much of what they are tracking, and some of the stuff really did surprise me. I knew that they knew this stuff, but wasn't aware that they could put it all together and link it to me personally. Clearly, Google is the best at accumulating a large amount of data, organizing and accessing it.

Google also lets you delete what you don't want available. It's as if it were our data!

Checking what Google knows

To check on Google's tracking, go to https://history.google.com and login to your account. Use the Hamburger menu (3 lines) in the upper left of the window, to pull down the areas of tracking.

Now check out all the information Google has about you. I was very surprised about how much information they had about what Android apps I used when. Google is not my default search engine, but it had over 8,000 searches as well as information on what Android apps I ran and when I ran them.

I also didn't emotionally realize exactly how much they knew about where I went. All my travel was recorded even though I don't have location services turned on. Apparently, they track when I pass a WiFi access point.

Also note that there is an option to Delete all (location) History.

Google uses this information for advertising but also to provide map information to you for routing. It also affects search results, so that stores and restaurants near where you go should get a plus in their search results.

Google provides clear pretty simple instructions for stopping location recording and deleting history here:

Google gives you control!

If all this bothers you, or even if it doesn't, you can login to you Google Account and control it by either clicking on this link or winding your way through Google account menus.

This page will allow you to turn on or off tracking of searches and browsing, Places you go, Activity, Voice searches and commands, and YouTube searches and viewing.

Be careful what you wish for

You may get some privacy from turning things off, but you will also lose some functionality. For example, removing voice history and is likely to reduce Google's reliability in responding to your voice. Removing location could also cause less useful search or weather results. I worry that not letting them track my contacts and calendar will hurt synchronization between devices.

However, it is good to have an idea what they are doing relative to you personally.

Date: June 2015

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