What Does Google Know About You: An (Auto)Complete Guide

Authored by John Mason via TheBestVPN.com,

How much does Google really know about you? We did a deep-dive into the data the company collects to find out...

Google might just know you better than anyone.

Thanks to the data the tech giant collects in order to sell ads, Google has a wealth of information on you — from what you look like to where you live and where you’ve traveled. The corporation may even be able to guess your favorite food.

Just how does Google know all of this? Jump to our infographic for a quick overview of everything Google knows about you, or check out our full guide by clicking on the icons below.

Although “Google it” has officially entered the cultural lexicon, the mega-corporation is much more than a search engine. It’s through its apps, internet-related services, acquired companies and more that the technology company collects data on you. Below, we’ve broken down the most common app, product or service Google uses to track data, as well as an overview of the specific data collected.

From what you’ve searched online and the websites you’ve visited to who your contacts are and what you talk about, Google knows a lot about you. The company is then able to take this information and make informed decisions regarding what you might be interested in, which they show you in the form of ads.

Google’s apps give the company a wealth of information on you, from the personal details that make up who you are to your interests, your past travels and your future goals.

Who You Are

From facial recognition to audio recordings and intuitive search, Google is able to create a comprehensive — and unnervingly correct — profile about what makes you, you.

Your appearance 
Thanks to facial recognition in Google Photos, the search engine probably has a pretty good idea of what you look like. In fact, you can create a “label” within Google Photos that’s essentially a tag for each person in your images, and Google is able to separate out that person from every photo you upload — even if the photo only includes a partial picture or is obscured.

Your voice
If you’ve ever used voice commands with Google Home, an Android device, or any other Google product or device, the site has a log of it. In fact, not only can you view your past voice commands in the “Voice and Audio” section of Google’s My Activity section, you can hear them as well. The site keeps a full history of your audio commands, including voice recordings.

Your religious/political beliefs
Have you searched Google for how to donate to a political campaign? Visited a candidate’s website? Watched a sermon on YouTube? Google uses all of this information to build a comprehensive profile that covers everything from whether you’re more religious or spiritual to who you’re probably voting for in the next election.

Your health status 
If you use Google Fit, the company probably has a pretty good overview of your health, from how active you are to the calories you burn a day to your fitness goals. But even if you don’t use this Google app, the site probably has a pretty good understanding of the state of your immune system — or at least how you view it — from your Google searches. In fact, compiling search engine data and cross-referencing it against patterns may even allow Google to tell if you’re getting sick or dealing with a medical issue.

Your personal details
Searched Google for the best lactose-free milk? For what to expect when you’re expecting? For how to learn Spanish fast? Everything you search is tracked by Google, which can be used to better understand personal details about your life, from whether you have dietary restrictions to what languages you speak.

Everywhere You’ve Ever Been

Location tracking is one of the areas Google excels in — thanks to advanced location recognition technology, the company knows everything from where you went on vacation two summers ago to what restaurant you eat at most often.

Your home and office
Android phones, which run off of Google’s services, and Pixel, Google’s own phone, track and record your location through several means, including Wi-Fi, GPS and cellular networks. This means that the phone knows everywhere you are, every day, and how long you’re there for.

Google is able to interpret that data and draw conclusions from it — for example, where you live is probably where your phone is for the majority of nights and weekends. In fact, it may only take Google Now three days to determine where you live. For those on Apple devices or other operating systems, Google Maps works in a similar way.

Places you visit 
In addition to collecting information about where you live and work, Google is able to track the other places you visit most often. Do you have a favorite coffee shop? A running route? A daycare center you use every weekday? Google probably knows about it.

Places you’ve traveled
Google doesn’t just know the ins and outs of your everyday life. The tech company knows where you’ve traveled too, be it a weekend getaway or a month-long trip to a different country.

Not only can Google track the places you’ve traveled to, it can see what you did while you were there. If you visited a museum in Paris or went line-dancing in Texas, Google knows — down to the exact time you arrived, how long you stayed, and how long it took you to get from one destination to another. The location tracking can even tell the method of transportation you used, like if you walked or took a train.

Additionally, Google’s acquisition of Waze means the site can collect data on where you’ve been even if you’re not connected to Maps or on a Google device.

Who Your Friends Are

Between your contacts and conversations in Gmail and Hangouts and the appointments you make in Google Calendar, the company knows everything from who you’re talking with to when and where you’re seeing them.

Who you talk to 
If you use Gmail for your personal or work email, Google has a list of all your contacts, including who you talk to the most: navigate to Google’s “Frequently contacted” section to see which of your Gmail contacts you spend the most time conversing with (and to check if Google’s assessment of who you like the most aligns with your own). Android and Pixel users also give Google access to their phone contacts and text messages.

Where you meet 
Meeting a friend for coffee later? If it’s on your Google Calendar, the company knows about it — and, thanks to location tracking, can map your trip from your house to the coffee shop and back. If you take a picture with your friend at the shop and upload it to Google Photos, Google can use facial recognition to add them to their own specific photo album. You can also tag the location the photo was taken as well.

If, years later, you’re trying to remember who you grabbed coffee with that day, Google can help you remember.

What you talk about
Does Google keep track of what you talk about over Gmail? It’s an issue up for debate — the company announced in 2017 that they would stop reading emails for the purposes of creating targeted advertisements. Whether they’ve actually stopped reading them altogether is another matter.

What You Like and Dislike

Google is in the business of knowing what you’re into — it’s how the search engine creates and sells such a personalized advertising experience. From your favorite movie genre to your favorite type of food, Google knows your preferences.

Food, books and movies 
Google can use search engine data, like recipes you’ve researched or book titles you’ve searched for, to form an idea of what you like and dislike. Certain apps like Google Books, which keeps tracks of the books you’ve searched and read, deepen this knowledge. Additionally, Google owns YouTube, which means they know which movie trailers you’ve been seeking out.

Google uses this information, as well as the websites you’ve visited and the ads you’ve clicked on, to create a profile of the subjects they think you’re interested in. You can see a full list of who they think you are — down to what shows you watch and what hobbies you pursue in your free time — in their ads dashboard.

Where you shop and what you buy
If you’ve ever used Google Shopping to compare the prices of online vendors, Google knows about it. They also know what products you’ve searched and clicked on through Google Search and can track your website visits and what products you’ve viewed on retailer websites through Google Chrome.

Your Future Plans

Google’s knowledge isn’t limited to what you’ve done in the past or are doing in the present. The company can also use data from their applications and search engine to make predictions about what you’ll be doing in the future.

What you’re interested in buying, seeing or eating
Interested in seeing a new movie? Checking out a new restaurant or taking a weekend trip to a new city? If you’ve used Google Search to look up the movie times, make an online reservation or scout out the best tourist activity, Google knows.

Upcoming trips and reservations
Have you searched restaurants to eat at and shows to go to in the city you’re visiting? Have you created an itinerary in Google Calendar? Google can collect that data in order to assess your upcoming trips. Google also scans your emails to see what flights you have coming up and can automatically add restaurant reservations to your schedule based on confirmations that have been sent to Gmail.

Future life plans
Have you been searching about homeownership? About when the best age to have children is? About tips for travelling to China? Google uses this information to understand more about you and what you want in the future, to better tailor online advertisements to your needs.

Your Online Life

At its most basic, Google is a search engine and internet services company. So, it’s no surprise that in addition to knowing a wealth of your personal details, the site also knows everything there is to know about what you do online.

Websites you’ve visited
Google keeps a comprehensive list of every site you’ve visited on Chrome, from any device. The site also keeps a running tab of every search you’ve run, every ad you’ve clicked on and every YouTube video you’ve watched.

Your browsing habits
From how many sites you have bookmarked to how many passwords Chrome auto-fills, Google has a comprehensive understanding of your browser habits, including:

  • Your apps from the Chrome Web Store and the Google Play Store

  • Your extensions from the Chrome Web Store

  • The browser settings you’ve changed in Chrome

  • Email addresses, addresses and phone numbers you’ve set to autofill in Chrome

  • All the website addresses you’ve ever entered in the address bar

  • The pages you have bookmarked in Chrome

  • All the passwords you’ve asked Chrome to save for you

  • A list of sites you’ve told Chrome not to save passwords for

  • All the Chrome tabs that are open across your devices

  • The number of Gmail conversations you’ve had

  • How many Google searches you’ve made this month

If you’re unnerved by the amount of information Google has on you, there are several steps you can take to get around the company’s relentless tracking.

1. Use a VPN

Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure option to keep Google from tracking you while you’re online. Although virtual private networks can’t completely keep the company from accessing your data, they do hide your IP address, encrypt your internet traffic and make your browsing history private, keeping your online actions much more secure.

2. Use private browsing

Use Google’s Incognito Mode to ensure that the pages you access won’t show up in your browsing history or search history. Be aware, however, that other websites can still collect and share information about you, even when you’re using private browsing.

3. Adjust your privacy settings

Check out Google’s Activity Controls to change what data is stored about you and visit your Activity Page to delete stored history and activity.

4. Turn off location reporting

In Google Maps — as well as in your Android and Pixel device settings, if you use those products — disable location reporting to keep Google from tracking where you are and where you go. If you use Google Maps or Waze for directions, though, the company can still collect location data on you when you’re using those apps.

5. Use a different browser and search engine

To stop Google from tracking your searches and website visits, you can use another browser and search engine, like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Bing. However, this will only stop Google from tracking you — Microsoft (or whatever company owns the browser you switch to) will get your data instead.

6. Delete your Google accounts

To truly stop the tech giant from tracking you, you’ll need to take drastic measures — namely, disavowing the use of any of the company’s products. That means deleting any apps linked to the company, including Gmail, Google Drive and any Android devices, and moving to a different browser and search engine.

Google has made life a lot simpler in many ways. Google Search has made answers just a click away. Google Maps has made directions easy to find and understand. Google Drive has made working across multiple platforms seamless.

This convenience comes with a price: privacy. If you’re concerned about how Google is tracking you — and what they’re doing with the data — follow the steps above to keep yourself safe, and visit Google’s Privacy Site for a more comprehensive overview of what data Google is tracking and how they use it.

What Does Google Know About You

Comments

Keyser PrivetHedge Sat, 07/28/2018 - 07:46 Permalink

The answer is simple, quit using google products, research online anonymity, turn off location services on your mobile devices and quit playing their game... I de-googled myself years ago when it became evident that their "do no evil" mantra was an Alinksy-like line of bullshit... The closest I come now is youtube, and I use a VPN when I do that... 

In reply to by PrivetHedge

RedBaron616 Cursive Fri, 07/27/2018 - 21:03 Permalink

I laughed when I looked at all the Google products. The only one I use is YouTube, but I don't log in and I use a VPN all the time, connecting through foreign countries. LOL And since I don't have a YouTube account, I never upload anything, not do I ever click on any ads, because those are blocked, so I don't see them. Take that, Google!

In reply to by Cursive

tripletail Fri, 07/27/2018 - 20:47 Permalink

Now doubt, Sherlock, the 'deep state', to include all of the most important silicon valley whores, know absolutely everything about morons subscribed to their services. Next question?

Masher1 Fri, 07/27/2018 - 20:53 Permalink

Google only knows what i allow, Feeding them bullshit just plain works... If everyone was engaged in this sort of care and feeding of the google you would have much less to worry about.

 

Startpage is helpful, But treating the cookie like the invader it is is the real key to better responses. i found i had a vast improvement in my online life after i started to delete those nasty cookies and get used to having those settings enabled in my browser to keep them from accumulating. It was like i bought a brand new computer, then i added that adblock+ to glean even more of my power back, after a few other refinements i leave little useful traces and have seen a pretty good performance increase, every day others all over are doing the same things... Why else do you think the ZH site started this adblok banner thing?

 

I laughed the first time i saw that one... the one site that forced me into blocking all that crap out now asking to have me white list the main reason i have an adblocker. total comedy in web tricks that one..

The stealth attempt to advertise in the story line will just sow a backlash against those products... like the above one, in fact the backlash is never limited like that, The term "Shit Splatters" has relevance. But who would pay if the fix is free like the block/delete cookie combined with free apps that cover the main territory of web annoyances like google spying.

 

So i guess the next thing is a page screen until you allow ad's, and that will just drive users off. but they don't care too much about that do they.

Masher1 Umh Fri, 07/27/2018 - 21:40 Permalink

Ok... a roll of paper or the like with something printed on it, Generally something temporary. hung up in commemoration of some event or achievement...

 

But i think you might refer to this new popup ZH is using to try to get us to stop using our ad blocker Like a nice friendly "Looks like you are using an ad blocker, blah blah blah" might make me forget the reason i went out and downloaded https://adblockplus.org/

and then went over to https://classic.startpage.com/eng/

once you set your browser to delete cookies and forget history and add https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere

you can drastically reduce your data leakage.

Finding a good AV scanner that can help protect your other would help too.

 

In reply to by Umh

roddy6667 Fri, 07/27/2018 - 21:20 Permalink

People wonder why Google and all its spawn are blocked in China. If Google and any related apps were on mobile phones like they are in America, the US intelligence community would have cameras and mics wherever they wanted. Any government, military, or business meeting could be watched and recorded. Any off-limits area could be surveilled. 

Google was founded by the intelligence agencies of the US. People who have worked there say that it is amazing how many people "used to" work at the CIA, NSA, DIA, ONI, or other places before they came to Google. Also, a lot of people leave Google to work for these same agencies. There is a revolving door between them.

HushHushSweet Fri, 07/27/2018 - 21:30 Permalink

The biggest thing you can do is to trash your smart phone. In fact, get rid of all devices that access the Internet. Use public computers to go online. Keep only one email address for business correspondence; don't do personal correspondence online. Use snail mail. Send real letters and real cards. Meet face-to-face with people, away from Internet-connected devices. When you're in public, wear a hat and sunglasses. Keep your public conversation to a minimum. Yes, all this is a hassle, but it's the only way to escape surveillance. Because that's what Internet-connected devices are -- surveillance tools, just like security cameras and traffic cameras, etc., are surveillance tools. We now live in a surveillance society. And it will get even worse with 5G.

I watch Enemy of the State every now and then, just to remind myself how ubiquitous the surveillance has become. We now take as the norm what was considered a horror scenario back in the late 1990s, at the time the movie was made. We've become desensitized to the loss of our personal privacy. When was the last time there was even a public discussion about the sanctity of personal privacy, especially the sanctity of our homes? It all seems so quaint now, the notion of "personal privacy", so old-fashioned and even slightly paranoid.

How easily we've been duped into giving it all up in the name of convenience and shiny new tech baubles!

And the punch line is that we willingly pay for the very devices and services used in our surveillance, delivering ourselves to the ptb on a proverbial 30-pieces-of-silver platter.

It doesn't need to be that way.

We can escape.

For starters, ditch the cell phone. The rest will come naturally.

 

Jessica6 Fri, 07/27/2018 - 21:39 Permalink

I do not use Chrome or their search engine or any of their social media accounts. I must have a dozen gmail accounts, all throwaways. False personal info attached to all of them. I don't have the attention span to watch videos. I use adblock and another plugin to block trackers. I also have a dynamic IP. And clear cookies/cache/history routinely.

OverTheHedge ChaoKrungThep Sat, 07/28/2018 - 00:35 Permalink

VPN is a lovely idea, especially as they pretend that they don't keep your internet history. The good news is that no-one on the internet ever lies. Ever. If I was the NSA, I would run as many VPN companies as I could, undercut all the competition, and generally hoover up everything that people who have something to hide are doing. Makes you think, doesn't it?

I have always assumed that, no matter what I do, someone could see everything, so probably IS seeing everything. You probably want to avoid kiddy porn, even if you are using Tails and other paranoid security measures. (For "total" security and general Jason Bourne activity: https://tails.boum.org)

My takeaway from this article is that if they want you - they can get you. Once the "security services" have plugged in to this information, they can reach out and get you at anytime, with the maximum convenience and minimum fuss. They know who you are, where you live, who you live with, and where they are, where you will stop for coffee etc, etc. You can run, but only to make their lives marginally more interesting. They are still going to get you.

In reply to by ChaoKrungThep

UnderDeGun Fri, 07/27/2018 - 21:46 Permalink

Absolutely incongruously funny:  "Use Google’s Incognito Mode"  Really?!?  Use "Google" to hide from Google.

If you are that concerned WHY would you be using a google application for anything??  DOH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

skinwalker Fri, 07/27/2018 - 21:46 Permalink

I don’t use a single google product, including YouTube. I haven’t for years. 

I’m on a one man mission to boycott google until they collapse into bankruptcy. 

I have a feeling I’ll be waiting for a very long time. 

Don’t even get me started on Amazon. 

AnngeloJamaica Fri, 07/27/2018 - 22:03 Permalink

your fucken fear porn article has been posted and all of us know this shit already.

So what the fuck is your point?  This is like really old shit that I wipe my ass with when i pump you out like a turd. your article is all a one sided piece of shit.  it is all about them and drama to the sheep.  you posted all the fancy bullshit, the charts, the drama.  who gives a fuck. do you need to be padded on the head for your self proclaimed achievement?  psst you are irrelevant, I call your bullshit and we in the know you fear.  

adr Fri, 07/27/2018 - 22:09 Permalink

When you search for me you wind up seeing thousands of photos of black guys since my last name is a popular first name for blacks. One guy wanted to friend me because he was black and had the exact same name as me, just reversed and I am white. He said I must be his universal opposite.

I scrolled through the first 50 pages of Google photos and did not find one picture of me. I never tagged my face in Facebook and never confirmed a tag by anyone else. Don't use Twitter or Instagram and I turned off all Google tracking and ad personalization.

Amazingly I hardly show up at all on the internet through a google search. Somehow a club team softball roster from 25 years ago shows up, really don't get that.

If I search for my wife, I get a few hundred photos of her from all over social media. 

I like not really being easy to find, even though I bet the black helicopters know exactly where to get me.

.....tinfoil hat.....

milanolarry Fri, 07/27/2018 - 22:34 Permalink

Google is just an extension of the USSA surveillance state. Go to Google and search things like dirty bombs, buying uranium or Hezbollah, in Arab of course, and see what kinds of advertisements would show up on your browser. I often do this to waste Google / CIA' s time and energy.