Google’s new opt-in history tracker gives you granular control over what it knows about you
Google knows everything about you; this fact should come as no surprise at all. If you use an Android phone, it knows the last app you opened, the last person you called and even the last thing you searched for using Google Now. iOS users can’t escape Google’s wrath either: its new Gboard keyboard gives it access to everything you ever type, and if you use Chromeas your default mobile browser, it knows what you get up to online too.
Previously it’s been rather difficult to keep track of exactly what Google knows about you. Now, though, Google has launched an opt-in service known as “My Activity”, a page where you can see everything Google has learnt about you in one place. Think of it a little bit like your web browserhistory, except this time it’s dialled up to 11.
Opting in to such a service may not sound like it would protect your privacy, especially as you’re giving Google the right to analyse even more data about your online habits. However, in doing so, you gain the ability to edit everything Google remembers about you. This means you can delete individual activities, searches and Google Now card interactions, and tailor exactly the kind of content advertised to you via Google AdSense. In a way, you’re taking back control of your browsing history from Google.
If you so wished, you could wipe the entirety of your history, leaving Google with absolutely nothing.
The My Activity page uses Google’s Material Design philosophy, presenting your data as Google Now-style cards in an Inbox-style list. You can search through anything using keywords or product names and then either delete the information from Google’s records or delve deeper into what it really knows you’ve been up to.
Not only is this a useful security and privacy feature, it’s pretty damn interesting too. It’s clear Google still has some work to do, though – according to its data sources, I’ve been using my Android device to listen to SoundCloud in the year 2061. I can assure you, I definitely have not.
Over the coming weeks, you’ll be prompted to sign up for My Activity – although it’s not compulsory. If you’d rather jump in right away, you can sign up for My Activity by simply visiting the page for the first time and accepting Google’s terms.