What does Google know about you?

Technology can paint you into a corner and become a pain.  

Attempting to exchange data between Android and iPhone appeared to be impossible: difficult yes but not impossible. Much can be done using Google as an intermediary. Whilst delving into these mysteries I not only discovered some concerning issues but an excellent exposé by one of America’s talk show hosts Kim Komando. Much of my content is based on his well written article.

Do you know every Google search you’ve ever performed is stored on the search giant’s servers? And that data is cross-linked to your search data from YouTube, Google Maps and any other Google services you use.

With that mountain of information, Google can tell a lot about you: where you live, your hobbies, age, health problems, religion and more.

Of course, Google uses that data mostly to target you with ads. If you spend 20 minutes doing research on a gadget, for the next few weeks you’ll probably be hounded by ads for that gadget wherever you go online.

Because search sites and other web services have become so ingrained in our daily digital lives, it isn’t really an option to stop using them.

However, you can keep a lower profile and put a little more distance between your personal data and Google. To start, you can clear out your Google search history.

To see what forgotten secrets lurk in your Google history, go to and sign in with your Google account information. You’ll see a list of everything you’ve ever searched for on Google. You can browse through your searches and find them by day or Google service. Additionally, Google shows you personalised search trends that can be interesting to look at.

To remove an unwanted search term, simply select click the checkbox next to it and then click the ‘remove items’ button. You can select as many entries as you want at a time. Once your information is removed, click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the page and choose ‘Settings’. Here you have the option to turn off your web history. This will stop Google from recording anything else.

There is a catch to all this, of course – your information isn’t really gone. Google will still keep your “deleted” information for audits and other internal uses. However, it won’t use it for targeted ads or to customise your search results.

After your web history has been disabled for 18 months, the company will partially anonymise the data so you won’t be associated with it.

If you don’t have a Google account or don’t usually sign in to it, Google still tracks your history. To accomplish this, it uses a cookie stored in your browser. You can wipe out the information by deleting the cookie but Google will just start recording new information. Instead, you can opt out of interest-based ads altogether by going to

If you’re still concerned about stored information, your best bet might be to avoid using Google Search as much as possible. Alternative search sites DuckDuckGo and IxQuick parallel Google Search in features and to a degree performance, but don’t collect any private information about you.

Microsoft’s Bing Maps is a reasonable replacement for Google Maps. Try using the venerable Firefox Web browser instead of Google’s Chrome.

The more you mix and match web services, the less any one company is able to form a complete picture of you.

Don’t forget that while you’re busy surfing the Internet, your browser is also busy making a list of the sites you visit. Anyone who gets access to your computer can see it.

You can delete some or all of the websites you’ve visited by going to your browser’s options menu. Or you can use a free third-party cleaner program like CCleaner. If you want to surf the Web without leaving a trace, all modern browsers have private, or incognito, browsing. While in this mode, your browser will ignore cookies and won’t record visited sites to your browser’s history.

Just don’t confuse private browsing with anonymity. Your Internet service provider (and your employer if you’re on a work computer) can still track the sites you’re visiting. Avoiding that tracking requires an entirely different set of steps.

There is another nice tool which does help significantly. It is described as Opt Out From Online Behavioral Advertising (BETA) found at
Using the tools on this page, you can opt out from receiving interest-based advertising from some or all of our participating companies.

• Find out which participating companies have currently enabled customized ads for your browser;

• See all the participating companies on this site and learn more about their advertising and privacy practices;

• Check whether you’ve already opted out from participating companies;

• Opt out of browser-enabled interest-based advertising by some or all participating companies, using opt-out cookies to store your preferences in your browser; or

• Use the “Choose All Companies” feature to opt out from all currently participating companies in one step. Just follow this link GO which resolves to

Google does allow you to turn off your web history by using their menu options listed under the gear icon. Sometimes you might prefer to run a few searches without recording them. Instead of turning off your Google web history, you can simply use a private browsing mode like Google Chrome incognito mode or Firefox Private Browsing to prevent your web activities from being associated with your Google web history.

Be aware that if you sign in to your Google account in private browsing mode, your subsequent web activities are recorded in your Google web history. Stay signed out if you don’t want them to be stored.
I might add that the “” service performs exactly as it says it does. I have got rid of quite a few annoyances by using that tool. But in a perfect world where all these search engines and social sites could make money without these innocuous advert systems they may then actually comply with the “do not track me” code which can be installed in all current browsers.

But we cannot survive without the internet; our world has already moved too far for that.

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