'A trade-off': Google's 'My Activity' shows users piles of personal data it collects
Published Thursday, June 30, 2016 6:26PM EDT
A new tool from Google is making clear just how much personal information its search engine and services like Gmail and YouTube are collecting every day.
Users who log in to My Activity with their regular usernames and passwords are shown a list of what the company has tracked, starting with the most recent items.
It’s the same information Google uses to sell advertising targeted to specific users, which is what has pushed parent company Alphabet to annual revenues of nearly US-$75 billion.
Internet consultant Phil Bradley scrolled through his activity timeline and saw that Google noted the games he played on Facebook, searches from Twitter, the products he shopped for on eBay and Amazon, and his real estate searches.
Bradley said My Activity is a reminder of the trade-off Internet users make when they choose to use “excellent services for which we notionally don’t pay.”
“You’ve really got to choose whether you give Google all of your personal, intimate history in order to use Gmail, in order to get good search results, or throw Google out the window,” Bradley told CTV News Channel.
“Google is not our friend,” he added. “Google is an advertising company.”
Bradley said that “to be fair to Google, you can turn (activity tracking) off.”
Indeed, when users first try My Activity, they are told their data “helps make your Google experience faster, smarter, and more useful,” but also that they “can easily delete specific items or entire topics” and “change settings and decide what data gets associated with your account.”
To change the settings to prevent Google from collecting certain types of data, users can click on Activity Controls, and then hit the “pause” button on particular types of tracking, such as Google search history, YouTube searching and watching history, and location services.
Google also points out that My Activity allows users to easily “rediscover” the things they’ve searched for all in one place.