How much information does Google store about me?

Published: 15th November 2009
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There can be simply no question about the impact Google has had on the whole way we interact with the internet. Beginning with a simple yet powerful search engine, Google has grown through development and purchase of other tech companies into the biggest technological conglomerate since Microsoft. It's no coincidence that "to google" is understood to mean "to perform an online search" in common parlance. Many services provided by Google are broadly recognized as being at the forefront of their respective fields, whether it's video sharing through YouTube or the resource-laden email experience through Gmail. This is in part due to the enormous amount of data Google collects and shares across its different products.



Any ubiquitous corporation is bound to face criticism -- some of it deservedly -- and Google is no exception. Where Microsoft's products are roundly lambasted for poor quality control in certain circles, it's Google's attitude towards information gathering that has some groups concerned. Google makes no secret of the information that it gathers, but it can be difficult for some users to understand what they are agreeing to when they allow Google to store data about their activities online.



To help make the whole process more transparent, Google has unveiled another product in its vast empire: Google Dashboard. Dashboard is a helpful tracker that sums up the information Google has collected about your profile in one place. It includes everything from the latest search you performed to the number of emails sitting in your Gmail account at the moment. While this is a huge amount of information, there are a couple important things to remember. The first is that Google only has access to information about things that you do while using their services and while you're signed in. Google will have information about which YouTube videos you have favorited, but not the ones you have "liked" through Vimeo. Similarly, if you have both a Gmail and aYahoo email address, Google will only have information about the Gmail account.



To view your Google Dashboard, visit http://google.com/dashboard. You will need to reconfirm your password even if you're currently logged in to your Google account. Once there, you can see the information stored with your account. You will also see links next to every section about privacy policy and how to change your privacy settings. You can also delete information Google has already gathered about your account.



The sheer amount of data Google stores is staggering, but it's important to remember that much of this data is only shared in the form of aggregated, non-personal information. That is to say, Google does not tell third party advertizers that one specific user searched for "little black dress" but rather the overall trend of users searching for that term in a geographic area or timeframe. In the same vein, Google does not share the contents of your emails or chats. You can read all of the Google privacy policy at http://www.google.com/intl/en/privacypolicy.html.



The safety of your machine and data is our top priority. While we believe that you should be aware of the information that you should know what information you are sharing with others, we in no way want to give the impression that you should stop using Google or Google products. Dashboard is a useful tool to analyze and manage the information you are sharing with Google, and it's another way the company is attempting to honor their responsibility to protect their users privacy. If you need help understanding Google's Dashboard or privacy policy and what it means to you, or if you have other concerns about online privacy feel free to give us a call at 1-800-GEEK-HELP (433-5435).

Gregg Housh holds the position of Technician Manager at Geek Choice. At Geek Choice we solve computer problems such as: Slow computer, Virus Removal, Spyware Removal, Computer startup problems, Printer not printing, Not connecting to the Internet, Scanner not working, or the "blue screen of death".

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