One of the world’s largest and most valuable tech companies, Google, often serves as the gateway to the internet. Whether we’re browsing the web, checking our email, getting directions, chatting with friends or even making payments, Google offers products to facilitate just about everything we do online.
Most of Google’s web-based services free of charge, which is part of what has made it so popular. So, to make money, it’s no secret that Google uses the information it gathers from its user base, selling information about what people search for, where they go and how they use the web so that companies can serve up personalized ads, PC World reported. To be clear, this data is anonymized, meaning it is not connected to any single person’s name or other individual identifiers.
Limited copyright license
Google may not use your original content beyond its own services, but it reserves the right to share your personal information with other companies, TOSDR found. The tech giant does tread more carefully when it comes to sharing sensitive details, such as those that pertain to your medical history, race or political activity, requiring users to actively opt in. Google can also publish or share its users information publicly, as long as it has been anonymized.
Indefinite data storage
There is no restriction on the length of time Google may hold onto your data, TOSDR reported. Even after you’ve deleted your accounts, Google can still share your data or use your content. Plus, Google reserves the right to use this information across its services. For example, information it collects from your email provider could be used to serve up apps on YouTube.
What you can do
While Google’s ability to collect and access data about its users may seem far reaching, there are a few flexible settings users can adjust to help keep their data more private, HowToGeek reported. Whether you use an Android phone, browse the web on Chrome, access your email via Gmail or use any other Google service, try searching through your settings for options that allow you to do things like:
- Disable location tracking.
- Opt-out of web tracking.
- Turn off sync, which allows Google to store your bookmarks and recently viewed websites.
- Erase some of the data Google has collected on you. Stay tuned for our article next month that tells you exactly how to erase some of that data.
While each of these features enhance your experience with Google’s services to a certain degree, some consumers might feel better protected knowing their information is being used in fewer places.
Though they are typically lengthy documents, it’s important to understand the privacy policies of the services you use and what kind of information they’re collecting about you. While, oftentimes, it’s relatively harmless, it’s a good practice to follow. You can apply the same habit to checking on your financial information, such as your Social Security Number and credit file, by investing in an identity protection service like Identity Guard.