You probably know Google is the number one search engine in the world. And if you can't find it on Google, it probably isn't out there on the web. But did you know that Google archives all of your searches? What do they do with that information and how can you protect your privacy?
With all of the attempts lately by the government and other entities to tap into your internet activity and breach your privacy, it is important you understand how Google tracks you and what they do with the information they collect.
What Google Collects
When you sign up for a Gmail account or take advantage of Google's search engine, Google collects information about you. This information includes demographic information, your picture, credit card information, and Gmail also gives you an option to create a personal profile.
All of the information you give Google goes into their database. Google also logs where you use your device, its IP address, what sites you looked at, the time and date of your searches and internet use, and the cookies which identify you to Google. You location is also collected as well as the location of any mobile devices you may use.
What Does Google Do With this Information?
According to the Google site; “We use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users. We also use this information to offer you tailored content – like giving you more relevant search results and ads.”
This means they collect this information to make your web experience richer and more relevant. Google also shares this information with other sites to target your interests. Many of the ads you see on the internet are presented based on the information Google saves and shares.
From time to time Google receives requests from government and law enforcement agencies to share the data they have collected. Google tries to cooperate with these requests. This is a major issue in the internet community and lawmakers are trying to pass legislation to address these concerns.
After 9 months IP information is anonymized, and searches are anonymized after 18 months. This means any personal data is removed, but the basic data is kept in their databases according to Google in an attempt to make their services better.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Privacy?
One of the easiest ways to protect your privacy is to use a VPN. A VPN creates a secure web connection and hides your location and IP address. This lets you surf the web without being tracked as closely as using a wide open web connection. There are several high quality VPN's out there, and many of them offer free versions.
While Google claims to use the information it collects for the purpose of personalizing and improving your internet experience, other sites may not be as open or honorable with your data. Always be aware of what you are sharing on the internet, and remember that each and every search you perform is stored somewhere on a computer database to be analyzed. Information shared on the web never goes away, protect yourself with a VPN.