First up in our Security series is a guide to securing your Google account.
Google has become so ubiquitous that it’s become a verb. If we want to search for something, we ‘Google it’. Why is it such a big deal though? After all, the company provides you great services for free. Right? Not really. If something is free, the product is you. Or your data to be more precise. If it falls into the wrong hands, it can wreak havoc in your life. Your Google account has slowly but surely become your identity online. You search, send emails, use your calendar and log in through tons of websites and apps through it. If it is compromised, you have a lot to lose.
If something is free, the product is you.
That’s not all. In response to privacy concerns raised a few years ago, Eric Schmidt who was the CEO of Google back then, said, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines—including Google—do retain this information for some time and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.”
Authorities can and do request all your data from companies like Google
So all your data can and will be used against you, if you get into a sticky situation. Doesn’t fill you with too much confidence now, does it? Let’s take a look at some of the things that Google collects about you and how you can stop them from doing so.
You know that Google is all about ad revenue. In order to be more attractive to advertisers, they build a profile for every user by tracking your searches and your activity on the internet. This profile includes your gender, age, languages you know and your interests. You can view and opt out of these interest based ads by going to this link.
Everything you search through Google and all the ads you ever clicked on are logged. If you use Google Now on your Android device, your audio queries are recorded too. You can view your search history here and your audio search history here. Fortunately, getting rid of your history is easy. Just click the gear icon in the top right and select remove all items.
We should mention that the ‘Do Not Track’ setting and ‘Private Browsing’ mode in Google Chrome don’t make you as anonymous as you think. Your IP address and searches can still be logged.
We don’t think much of using our Smartphones for location based offers and Google Maps. Call us old fashioned but we’d rather not let Google know that about our daily routines. You can view your location history here. All items from a particular time period can be deleted and you also have the option to remove it all permanently.
Your account dashboard provides you a bird’s eye view of everything about your Google account. The services you have linked, your Play Store app, contacts and tons of other stuff can be seen easily. You can access your Google Dashboard here.
Do you want to delete your data but don’t want to lose it? Or you simply like to keep backups? Google provides a very easy to use tool called Google Takeout through which you can download all your photos, emails and data associated with your Google account.
If you are in the majority of the population who couldn’t care less about Google+, you can disable your account and stop getting emails about strangers adding you to their circles. You can go to your Google+ settings here and disable your entire profile without it affecting other services like Gmail.