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My Activity: a tool to see what Google knows about you

Neither fairy dust nor Santa will keep you from Google ads, but it's got a new place to find out what it knows about you and how.

How much does Google really know about us?

Well, let’s see… how deep is the ocean, and how high is the sky? Probably both are a bit tighter than the ever-expanding capacity of Google’s maw.

Depending on which of its tools we use, Google knows what we think, what we need, what we desire, our political and spiritual beliefs, our age, our gender, what music we listen to, what we watch, what we read, where we’ve been, where we plan to go, where we work, where we hang out, where we live, who we meet, where we shop, when we shop, what we buy, how much money we’re worth, how much we spend, and how much energy we consume.

How does it amass all that data? Through Google search, the Chrome browser, Gmail, Google News, Google+, Book Search, YouTube, Picasa, Translation, Maps, Street Views, Waze, Nest, and… well, the list keeps going, and growing, as Google acquires more companies and more data-crunching ability. has laid out how Google knows what and which tools are feeding it in this nice infographic.

Google is, of course, an advertising company. It makes money by following us around online and targeting ads it thinks stand a chance of getting our attention.

If you don’t like it, well, you can always stop using those Google tools. Toss the smart thermostat and stop using Waze to figure out the fastest way to get where you’re going.

At least, that’s the way it’s been, until now. Google has launched a new, opt-in ad service for non-Google sites and tools that shows how it tracks your internet activity – what you’ve searched for, visited and watched on Google services – and actually lets you delete specific items or entire topics that get associated with your account.

The tool is Google’s new My Activity setting.

It shows users what its ad-tracking service has learned about them – across search, YouTube, Chrome, Android and everything else – and it allows users to opt in or out of a new personalised ads service.

You might well be surprised by how much Google knows about you, particularly if you don’t use tools that block scripts, cookies and ads, such as Ghostery, Privacy Badger and/or AdBlocker.

My Activity includes a setting that lets you choose ads that are relevant and useful.

When “ads based on your interests” is turned on, you’ll see ads based on your prior search queries, the videos you’ve watched on YouTube, as well as other information associated with your account, such as your age range or gender.

On Google sites such as YouTube, you’ll see ads related to your interests, which you can edit. You can also block some ads that you don’t want to see.

Sorry, there’s no way to turn adds off. With “ads based on your interests” turned off, you’ll still see ads.

They’ll be less targeted and more based on information such as your general location: city and state. You won’t be able to edit your interests: in fact, all the advertising interests associated with your Google account will be deleted.

You also now have the ability to turn off targeted advertising when it comes to your activity on websites beyond

You’ll be able to mute some ads that don’t interest you, you may see ads related to your interests and previous visits to other websites, and the ads may be based on anonymous demographic details such as age and gender. They also may be based on your general location (such as city or state) or the current page or app you’re looking at.

Turn it off, and again, you’ll still see (less relevant) ads.

Google’s also offering a Chrome extension to permanently opt out of Google’s DoubleClick tracking cookie.

It won’t spare you from ads. And some reviewers on the Chrome webstore said it didn’t even keep them from being exposed to targeted ads.

Unfortunately, there is, as one extension reviewer noted, neither fairy dust nor other magic that will keep you from Google ads.

There are, however, a good amount of stories about adblockers from Naked Security!


mine does not show any activity besides youtube… not really concerned.


Maybe you’re not doing it right. Mine shows tax forms and medical records, as well as my GPS tracks from selling drugs at the schoolyar…. uh, I mean… volunteering at the homeless shelter.


I don’t use Google/Chrome for personal searches, but I do use it at work with a Google Drive account. It didn’t seem to miss much, and is generally rather boring. I do not use my work computers for personal use, at all; I know how vulnerable the network is, and why would I want to have to explain anything I did on the Internet at work. This is similar to my philosophy about backups: backups are most singularly important function of a system administrator, because do you really want to have to explain to your boss(es) that you do have a current backup and cannot restore the data? Personally, that should be a fireable mistake. My backup strategy is RAID 5, hybrid cloud/NAS, and external, portable HD, detached from the servers when done, and I still worry about a backup disaster.


I checked the “how much does google really know about you” site. I then checked all the listed “5 links for a deeper look at what google knows about you”. As I had suspected I had already disabled all of those search histories.

I don’t understand why your article is not clearer in addressing how people can go to Google to disable these things for themselves.

The one thing I have not done is install the “DoubleClick Chrome plugin” because quite frankly I don’t trust it. BUT I do have Ghostery, Blurr, Disconnect and Adblock Plus installed. One or more of these identify DoubleClick tracking.


Google may think it knows everything about me, but do they know that I frequently close the lid on my Chromebook and my girlfriend uses it without signing out? Despite the adverts I still haven’t bought any ladies underwear.


Why is android reporting my using of 3rd party apps such as Facebook and Gas Buddy to google?


Possibly because you are using Google Now ? and as part of opting in (” I’m in”) you allowed it track web and app activity ( which seems to have only one checkbox for both activities ) . I find the tracking of all apps opened as particularly debatable but then I suppose the question is whether one wants to use Google services or not ( I’m undecided on that one but at the minute have everything that I can switched off)


Apart from not using Google, is there a way to automate the purging of search, voice search, GPS data etc from my account activity? Say at a set interval via a script or something else?


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