A new report from a United Nations agency shows that 47% of the global population is online and regularly accesses the internet. However, being connected to the largest information database in the world may come with a price to pay. User opinions on data collection vary and while some may see this loss of privacy as a necessary evil in exchange for the value the internet provides, other users may see it as outright abusive. Ultimately, one of the reasons Google collects and uses your data is to make their technology and services more useful and relevant to your individual needs. An example of this; Google may collect information about places you’ve visited to make recommendations on similar places to go. However, should you not be comfortable with this, you are able to choose how much Google is allowed to know about you. The following are a list of ways you can control your online privacy and security.
See what data is in your account
When signed in with your Google account, one of the things Google is able to collect information on is your search history when making use of Google services like Google Search and Youtube, regardless of the device or browser you are using. If you’d like to access this information, you can go to “My Activity” on your account. Data is sorted by date, topic and product (eg. Google Search, Google Image Search, YouTube, Google Maps, etc). You can then choose to delete specific activities or searches you’d rather not have associated with your account. If you prefer Google not to remember any of your account activity, you have the choice of browsing the web privately by using Incognito mode in Chrome.
View your advertisement profile
Google collects data to make sure the advertisements shown to you are relevant. Rather than sending out mass messages as used in traditional media like TV, radio or printed advertising, online technology enables advertisers to present to you advertisements that are personalized based on information collected. Such information may include your location, gender, age and particular interests. For example, if you’ve been visiting travel websites and using Google services to help you plan a trip to Paris, you may be shown ads related to accommodation in Paris. If you’d like to control the ads you’re shown, you can go to Ads Settings and alter accordingly. You can even completely disable ads personalization and whilst you will still see ads, chances are they will be less relevant to you and your interests.
Control what apps have access to your account
Perhaps you’ve noticed that when installing a new app on your phone, you may have been asked for permission to access certain features on your Google Account. Say for example you’ve just downloaded an app to help you schedule birthday parties for your kids, the application may have requested access to your Google Calendar and Contacts so that it would be able to invite friends and send them reminders about the event. If you navigate to the Permissions section on your Google account, you can view what apps you have given permission to share your account. You can review the type of access each app has and even remove access for certain apps or services you no longer use or trust with your information.
Secure your account
You can perform a Security Checkup at any time on your account. This helps protect your Google account and your information. The security checkup will make sure that things like your recovery information are up to date and that any websites, apps and devices connected to your account are ones that you still use and trust. If anything looks out of the ordinary, you are able to immediately alter your settings or change password as necessary.
Whilst it may be hard to completely control and manage privacy breaches occurring within governments or organizations with whom you have trusted your personal information, you can at least use the tools and settings provided to you within your Google account to enhance and further increase your online privacy and security.