Google privacy settings — check how you’re tracked

 General  Comments Off on Google privacy settings — check how you’re tracked
Aug 282018
 

Another go at this topic, this time by PC World.

The Google ecosytem is impressive, with devices and services which we use on a daily basis. Lots of services: search, contacts, calendar, web browsing, etc. Google Assistant, the digital personal assistant (butler). Lots of Google apps on our Android-powered smartphones. Google programs on our notebook and desktop computers. Even Chromebooks. And smart speakers.

Paying for a smartphone which runs Android is one thing, but all those Google services generally are part of the “freemium” marketplace. So, is there a price to pay for all that convenience?

Well, of course. The price is that we give away information (data) about ourselves: personal data, what we do and how often, where we go, what we read and search for, what we buy, … So, “eyes wide open,” is there any way to check on how we’re being tracked and to limit that? Sort of.

This PC World article covers that “sort of” question regarding Google’s tracking: “Google Privacy Checkup FAQ: How to limit tracking and still use the apps you love” (August 22, 2018).

In response to an AP report that showed Android phones still tracked location even with Location History turned off, Google changed some of the verbiage on its privacy page to be clearer, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to change its tactics.

You might not know it, but you have a surprising amount of control over your Google account, as long as you know where to find all the switches. Here’s everything you need to know about Google’s privacy settings: where to find them, what you can turn off, and how it all affects your phone.

Recently when visiting the Google home page in a browser, there always was a nag to check my privacy settings. So, at least Google is encouraging more awareness about the settings.

[The Privacy Checkup] page is accessible on any device or the web, and it’s pretty easy to navigate. Near the top you’ll see a box called Review your privacy settings, which leads to the Privacy Checkup guide. Tap Get started to get an overview of your current settings. By default, everything will be turned on, but there are several layers that can be switched off (or paused, as Google labels it).

Read the full article, which discusses the different categories of settings, in each case answering these questions: What is it? How do I turn it off? Can I limit it (instead of turning it completely off)? How does it affect my phone? How do I get rid of old data?

  • Web & app activity
  • Location history
  • Device information
  • Voice & audio activity

The situation is just like having a close family member, best friend, or trusted butler — someone you find really helpful and rely on for personal assistance. The more that person knows about you — your preferences, tastes and habits and interests — the more fluid your interactions. In other words, you gain convenience by saving time (not needing to detail your requests each time) and energy (hey, you know what I like).

Just note that while there are ways of eliminating traces of your activity in a web browser (history, bookmarks, caches), other data is collected regardless.