What does Google know about you?
Your searches could be more harmful than you ever imagined.
A robber, stalker or even an old friend who’s gone sour could glean loads of information from your searches for flights, rental cars and condos. TDS Telecom is alerting customers about the benefits of a simple privacy checkup. The company is also providing tips for clearing your online information to prevent seemingly simple searches from slipping into the wrong hands and exposing the potentially harmful data your search engine keeps on you.
Past data breaches prove how unique your searches can be. They also show the vast amount of information that can be gleaned from any everyday search. While Google’s introduction of the My Activity page makes it easier to view the data Google keeps on you, it’s important to know how to clear this data to prevent it from slipping into the wrong hands.
“As we turn to the internet more often, we are giving away more data on ourselves than ever before,” said Karl Betz, director of Infrastructure, Risk Management and Security at TDS Telecom. “What seems like a simple search may actually expose loads of personal information.”
For this reason, it is important to view your search engine and to perform a privacy checkup —at work and at home. For precautionary reasons, Betz recommends clearing this data at least once a month to better protect your privacy.
Below are a few ways to find out what data Google has on you. Once you see what they are storing, identify and then clear any unwanted details. Tip: you need to log in to your Google account to use these tools.
Entire Google search history
If you’ve ever conducted a search while logged in to your Google account, all those searches could still be accessible — even if you are religious about clearing your browsing data or search history. Google’s new My Activity tool gives you a clear picture of your data tracks and allows you to search and delete your history by using keywords and dates. However, My Activity only shows your searches on the device you are currently using, therefore, checking your history, profile and apps on all the devices you use is still important. To view your entire search history, visit myactivity.google.com.
Although neither Android or iPhones report your location automatically, this setting can easily be switched on, allowing Google to quickly collect this information. For instance, if you use Google Maps on your phone, the location is needed for the app to automatically load your position on the map. Additionally, in your browser window, you might notice your location listed at the bottom of your search. This information is reported back to Google, if you allow it. Check what Google knows about where you have been at maps.google.com/locationhistory.
Google creates a profile based on your searches, which is used to tailor the ads you see. Tired of seeing ads for something you’re not interested in? View and edit your Google profile at google.com/settings/ads/.
You should also take a look at all the apps and extensions running in the background when you search Google. Apps you may not remember using may be running and possibly accessing your profile. This could very well be the reason for your spam. Follow security.google.com/settings/security/permissions to see what apps are currently accessing your information.
No one ever thinks a breach will happen to them; however, for the reasons outlined above, you should assume it will happen to you — and regularly take preventive steps. Even if the chances are low that this might affect you, these proactive, precautionary measures could prevent a large headache and keep you from wishing you had acted sooner.