Here's How To Find Out What Google Knows About You

Whenever you access Google, your activity is tracked and recorded – but you do have the power to disable some of these systems. d8nn/Shutterstock
Robin Andrews 01 Jul 2016, 19:14

Google’s just become far more open about the data it collects on its visitors – which, by April of this year, was used as the search engine of choice by 89.4 percent of global Internet users. With the launch of its new widget, My Activity, it is providing people with a comprehensive history of almost every single action, website and behavior they engage in online via its services.

Whether you use YouTube, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or any such browser or search tool via Google, you’ll be able to find a trace of your online paper trail within this virtual individualistic bibliography, all of which can be deleted at will.

Google collects this information for a range of reasons, but the most obvious is to provide tailored advertisements to you as you surf the web. Far from just displaying adverts tailored to individual users on Google sites, this software also sends adverts targeted towards specific users to third-party sites served by Google. According to the Guardian, there are over 2 million of these sites hidden across the Internet.

My Activity allows you to choose whether or not you want to be subjected to this type of targeted advertising mechanism. Importantly, unlike most other online companies, this service has to be opted in to, not opted out of. If you do not manually choose to activate this behavioral information system, you will not get targeted ads.


Targeted ads can now be switched off. Grasko/Shutterstock

In order to find an acceptable middle ground, it encourages users to allow targeted ads, but gives them the option to “mute” the ones they deem irritating or bothersome. This will be music to the ears of many who find that certain ads seem to follow them across the Internet, from site to site, long after they’ve left Google’s main search engine page.

Not everyone has immediate access to My Activity, but users will be notified when they are able to hop on and customize their browsing experience.

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