In one of our previous posts, we talked about how easy it is to get caught in digital filter bubbles where information is purposefully withheld. One of four tips was to find out what personal data is stored in your online accounts. This raises the specific question: What does Google know about me?
This is how you can view the Google information.
The Google Dashboard gives you a rough overview of all the services that are stored with your Google account. You can access it via the page www.google.com/dashboard. There you can find out several things:
- At the very top, there is a direct option to download all the data of the profile bundled.
- All Google services are listed. In addition to the saved personal information, profile settings for the individual services can also be changed there.
- The most prominent services, when used with the account, are Gmail, Google Drive, Google Maps or YouTube.
- The personal data can then also be downloaded again from the individual services.
Google History – the data perfectly sorted
If that is not enough, you can find all data with a timestamp in Google History, perfectly sorted by time. Depending on the privacy settings and the last deleted time, search histories, YouTube playlists or Google Maps tours of the last few years can be viewed here. Here is an excerpt of what can be found there:
- Browsing history (on Google Chrome)
- YouTube playback history
- A history of when which apps were open on Android and how long they were open.
- Voice recordings of the voice assistant, if it was used
- Google Maps timeline with the time and place you were at
Of course, that’s only a worst-case scenario if you have the privacy settings turned off in every Google app, own an Android phone, and use your Google account everywhere. It could also be the case that your Google history is filled rather sporadically since you did not agree to the data being shared. However, if you are a very “permissive” user, it would no longer be a difficult task to reconstruct your daily routine from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed.
What does Google know about me? A trade-off.
If you have read this post so far, you might think that it is highly questionable how much information Google has about you as a person. Should that make you think? Absolutely. Is it exclusively negative? Absolutely not.
Here is a comparison of what can happen with the data positive and negative:
|Personal Information||Positive benefit||Negative effect|
|YouTube History||YouTube’s algorithm suggests suitable videos from people you haven’t subscribed to yet.||The videos that are suggested to you support your opinion and your taste. You are in a filter bubble.|
|Google Maps History||You’re in a foreign city and you get a perfect restaurant recommendation based on your favorite places from your hometown.||Using the same data of your friends, it can be determined with whom you have met and how long you have been together.|
|Browser History in Google Chrome (decide for yourself whether you find this positive or negative)||You get perfectly tailored ads depending on the stores you like and visit often.||You get perfectly tailored ads depending on the stores you like and visit often.|
To be fair, it must also be mentioned that all Google services and their widespread use are also based to no small extent on the fact that all this data is or was available to them. Without this data, all Google services would not be as good as they undisputedly are today. However, no one outside of Google knows what else happens to this intimate data and to whom it is sold.
This is what you should take with you
- We have shown how you can see what Google knows about you and how you can delete it.
- With some profiles and insufficient privacy settings, Google and other systems can easily create a detailed daily schedule.
- Nevertheless, we also benefit when the algorithms have a lot of personal information at their disposal and the service is improved as a result.
Filter bubbles explained with definition, examples and ways to avoid them.
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Here you can find detailed instructions from the Google documentation to view your personal data: