by Cadie Thompson, Tech Insider
(Image: Adam Berry / Getty)
“It’s no secret that Google knows a lot about its users.
The tech giant collects tons of data about you, including your search history, location, and voice searches that help improve Google’s services and provide relevant ads.
But you might be surprised to know that Google can easily take a look at all of the data it has on you.
In October, The Guardian pointed out that every audio command made using an Android phone is recorded and can easily be accessed and played back by visiting the Activity Settings in Google. The same thing can be done if you are an iPhone user and use voice commands with a Google app.
This, of course, isn’t the only thing that you might be surprised to find when you take a look at your Google account settings.
In June 2015, Google created a hub called “My Account,” where users can easily view the information the company is collecting and change their settings. And this week the company rolled out a new tool called “My Activity,” which shows you almost everything you do online related to your Google account.
Even if you consider yourself a privacy buff, it’s worth taking a look at your settings from time to time to make sure that you’re comfortable with what you are sharing.
Here’s how you can view what information Google is tracking and how to make adjustments.
View all of your web and app activity data
Whether you’re searching for something in the Chrome browser on your computer or smartphone or using another Google app like Maps or Now, Google is tracking your activity to help customize your experience.
Web and app activity, which includes things like your search history and activity in maps, are turned on by default on iPhone and Android devices because they are tied to your Google account.
You can view all of this information by using the “My Activity” tool.
Google’s new “My Activity” tool shows you just how much the company knows about you. (Screenshot)
But if you see something that you want Google to stop tracking, then you have to dig a little deeper.
Stop Google from tracking your web activity
First, go to “My Account” and then, under the “Personal info & privacy” section, select “Manage your Google Activity.”
From there, select “Activity controls.”
Here you’ll see all of the kinds of data Google is tracking. To disable web and app activity, simply click the icon on the right.
If you want to take it one step further and delete your web activity, then you’ll need to follow a few steps.
First, select “Manage Activity.” This will take you back to your “My Activity” page, where you will want to select the menu icon — three vertical dots — in the upper-right corner.
Select “Delete activity by” and then in the drop-down menu choose “All time.” You can also opt to delete data within a specific time period by selecting certain dates in the drop-down menu.
For more information about how to delete searches on your computer or mobile device, check out this helpful Google support page.
Check to see if you are currently sharing your location
If you have given Google the OK, then it will use your smartphone to track your location.
You can see if you are sharing this info under “Activity controls” and view exact locations that are stored for you by clicking “Manage Activity.”
Just like for web browsing, you can turn location-tracking off by simply disabling the icon on the right.
To delete any location history, select “Manage Activity” and then click on the icon shaped like a garbage can in the bottom-right corner.
Listen to audio and voice requests you have made using Google
Google also keeps a recording of voice and audio activity used for voice searches and commands — but only if a user has opted in to use the feature, as it is turned off by default.
Anytime you say “OK Google” or touch the microphone icon, Google will save your recording.
You can listen to all of your old commands or voice searches by selecting “Manage Activity” under “Activity Controls.”
To learn more about audio recordings that Google stores, visit this helpful support page.
Review your YouTube activity
Google keeps tabs on what you search for on YouTube and which videos you have watched. Like other settings, these can be managed under “Activity Controls.”
You can view the day and time you searched for or watched videos, as well as the device you were using during that activity.
You can edit your searches or the list of videos you watched, or delete everything following the same steps as you would if you were deleting your web and app activity data.
It’s also worth noting that Google has a privacy checkup feature that will walk you through more steps one by one to make sure that you are sharing data you are comfortable with. It will also help you make sure that your security and ad settings are up to date.
To learn more about how Google uses your data, check out its privacy site.”