PHOENIX - Earlier this week, Google peeled back a layer to reveal a boat load of information that will do one of 2 things to Google users: freak them out, or make them feel better about their private information. This new feature is called the Google Account Activity Tool .
Google collects data about the things you search, the e-mails you send and the places you go using Google Maps. If you didn't know this, please remove the rock and crawl out from underneath. That's Google's business! They have built an empire on advertising that is tailored to individuals. The only way that can do this is by using your info to find ads. There, I said it.
This new tool is a window into that world of recorded data. It's a simple tool that lets you see some of the basic level info that Google has saved about you. For example, in the Gmail section it tells me that over the past month I've sent 145 e-mails and received 1,229. It also breaks down the people I e-mail the most. In the web history section it tells me that I have searched Google 667 times in the past month (wow, that's a lot!) and that 9% of all my searches are image searches.
Basically, it's information overload. I'll admit, it's a bit scary. Google really knows what I'm doing on a daily basis. Heck, if you use Google location services on your phone (which I do) it can even tell you how much time you spend at work and how much time you spend at home. Should we be scared?
No! Not at all. I think information and knowledge are power. It's great to know what Google knows. The best part about this new tool is that under each section there is a settings option that allows you to immediately turn off tracking for that section. You can even delete any previous data that Google has saved. Sure, there are plenty of people who have no idea that they agreed to allow Google to save this info. Hopefully this new tool will open their eyes and give them the opportunity to change those settings.
Embrace the web, love the web and most importantly, understand the web. If you know how it works and what companies are doing, you will be better prepared to make sure your information is as private as you want it to be. And remember, nobody is forcing you to use Google. There's always Yahoo.
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