Google has been under constant pressure for years now for severe privacy risks surrounding its widespread network of services. Although the tech giant has taken steps to address some of these concerns, its fast-expanding digital reach seems to belie its efforts.
And Google’s recent announcement about delays to the Privacy Sandbox rollout raised questions from all corners, from user communities and regulators to experts and the media. It was a critical initiative to safeguard user data. And the delays have done nothing but cast more doubt on the search giant’s commitment to ensure data privacy—no doubt, another warning sign for its billions of global users.
Experts have already warned that Google’s email service collects more data than most other email platforms. Mounting antitrust cases apart, Google’s data collecting practices remain a major issue for regulators and pose increasing threats to users.
So, if you’re using one or more Google services, then it’s time you tackled its around-the-clock surveillance habits. And in this article, we’ll explain the very real threats to your personal and identifiable data and how to remove info from google search and its other services.
Google has established itself as an undisputed leader of the internet age with several essential online services. Today, its search engine claims over 90% of all global search queries. Gmail and YouTube have more than 1.8 billion and 2.3 billion users, respectively. And Google Maps is the most downloaded map and navigation app in the US. But, of course, Google’s product and service portfolio doesn’t end there.
But one thing is for sure: all these represent a significant threat to internet users, particularly when it comes to personal data. The fact is, the tech giant is collecting an extraordinary amount of user information every second, regardless of how and where you access its services.
Take Gmail, for instance. Its desktop service might not give you a clear idea about its true ability to invade your privacy. But when you download its app to a smart device, clues to its data tracking practices really begin to unravel. The Gmail app on your phone has access to an alarming amount of intensely personal data. For instance, it can read calendar events, your contact list, phone status, and, basically, your identity. And it reads your messages, too, to offer features like Smart Reply and Smart Compose.
Google’s search engine is another source of data surveillance. It knows all your search queries, personal interests, and the sites you visit. And it’s constantly watching you to personalize search results and advertisements.
The popular search engine’s data-tracking practices could be pretty disturbing by any measure. For instance, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t just rely on your IP address to determine your location. Instead, Google collects and uses a range of personal data to figure out where you are, including the home address you have entered in the Google Home app, labeled places on Google Maps, previous activity on Google products, as well as location histories. Now, that’s the level of surveillance you would expect from a law enforcement agency, not a tech company.
Chances are Google has already amassed a staggering amount of your personal information over the years. So, is it possible to remove all this data? While there’s no guarantee of wiping out all of it, you can certainly remove a significant portion and ensure most of your personal details remain private going forward.
Here’s what you should do.
The “Manage your Google Account” settings allow you to determine how your data is tracked on several key Google services connected with a single account ID. For example, with the Data and Personalization feature, you can prevent location history tracking and block YouTube from monitoring watched videos and video search queries. You can also prevent Google from saving your search histories and activities on websites, apps, and devices that use Google services.
But before you block these tracking features, ensure you delete already saved data. You can also visit the Google Dashboard to manage data relating to a specific Google service.
Another critical step is to review permissions you’ve provided Google products like Chrome, Gmail, Maps, and YouTube on your smart devices. You can do this with the App Permissions feature under Settings.
Go through each app and remove unnecessary access and permissions you’ve granted to track personal information.
Cookies are a common threat to data privacy. Nowadays, websites rely on them heavily to gather invaluable data on user behavior. But you can easily avoid them by deleting cookies stored in your browser. The automatic removal feature on Chrome is an excellent tool to avoid the hassle of manual deletion. It will prompt the browser to remove cookies each time you close the window.
Today, many sites allow visitors to choose which cookies they accept. So, make use of these options without blindly accepting all available ones.
To prevent Google from pulling your data from across its expansive network of services, consider using alternative services. For example, you can switch to a different browser or an email service provider.
Of course, some may argue that this practice allows more companies to access your data. But several businesses having incoherent pieces of personal information is certainly better than a single tech giant knowing all about you.
The incognito mode prevents Chrome from saving your activities. A paid VPN service can offer even better protection for private and anonymous browsing. The monetizing value of your data will continue to make it vulnerable to the tracking and sharing practices of tech giants. So, adopt responsible data sharing habits and use these steps to keep your personal information away from Google.