What does Google know about me? Great question! Well you’re in good company as you’re one of about 5,400 people who types this question into Google each month.
The short answer is that Google tracks everything, so what Google knows about you depends on what Google services you use, how much you use them, and what privacy controls you set up.
So what could Google know about you?
What Google could know about you can be divided into two different general categories of information:
- Information you give Google
- Information Google collects as you use their services
Information You Gave Google (Or Created)
This category of information includes all of the information that you directly gave Google. A lot of this information you may not have considered as “giving to Google”, but Google recognizes it and collects it anyway.
Here’s a list of the things that Google could know about you because you gave it to them:
- Your name
- Your phone number
- Your birthday
- Your gender
- Your email address
- Payment information
- “Content you create, upload, or receive from others when using [Google’s] services.”
That last one is a big one. Think about it for a second.
“Content you create, upload, or receive from others when using [Google’s] services.”
Content you create, upload, or receive from others when using Google’s services includes quite a lot because Google provides a lot of services.
To see what Google services you use, go to myaccount.google.com/dashboard and make sure you’re logged into your Google account.
The Google services page shows you all of the Google services that you use or have used with this Google account.
To show you an example, here is my personal services list.
Each of these services can be expanded to show more details of what information Google has about you through that service.
So Google knows all of the content I created, uploaded, or received from others using ALL of these services.
The two here that stand out the most are Chrome and Gmail. Depending on how much you use Chrome and Gmail, you may be sharing a crazy amount of information with Google through these two tools alone.
Here’s what mine looks like, just to show you how much information this entails. I seriously recommend that you check yours to see what information Google knows about you.
Google has access to over 25,000 emails, all of my bookmarks, all of my saved passwords, my extensions, and if I click on 1,816 other items I can see even more things that Chrome knows about me.
- 3 apps
- 158 settings
- 1260 pieces of form data for autofill
- 296 sites in my browsing history (this only includes web addresses entered in the address bar. All of my browsing history is shown elsewhere)
- 385 passwords
- All 99 of my open tabs (I know, it’s embarrassing how many tabs I have open)
Note that this is only the data that Google knows about me because I use Chrome. And this list doesn’t include all of the information from my work Google account (which has a lot more data stored than my personal which I shared here).
We recommend that you login to your Google account to view and edit your personal data settings to match your security and privacy preferences. You can view your Google settings by clicking here.
Information Google Collects As You Use Their Services
We know that you’ve recognized that there is some overlap between the two categories. We listed browsing history in Information You Gave Google, but this could also fit in the Information Collected category. All of my passwords are information that I gave Google, but it was also collected as I used Chrome over time, so it fits in both categories too.
This guide is simply meant to help you understand what Google knows about you and help you think more about what that means and maybe do something about it.
The information that Google collects about you as you use their services can be broken down into three main categories:
- Your apps, browsers, and devices
- Your activity
- Your location information
Your apps, browsers, and devices
Google collects information about the apps, browsers, and devices you use when you access Google services.
This information includes:
- Unique identifiers (a string of characters to uniquely identify something)
- Browser type and settings
- Device type and settings
- Operating system
- Cell carrier
- Phone number
- IP address
- Crash reports
- System activity
- Referrer URLs
Naturally, if you’re using a Google device, Google knows more information about that device and how it is used than if you were using a different device. Though the information shared is similar to that shared with Apple if you use an iPhone.
Google collects information about your activity while you use their services. This may include:
- Your searches
- What videos you watch
- What content you read and interact with
- What ads you view and interact with
- Your voice and audio information
- Purchase activity
- People you interact with
- Activity on third-party sites that use Google services
- Chrome browsing history (all of the sites and pages that you visit)
Just like if you use a Google device, if you use Google services like Google Hangouts, Google Voice, or Google Fi for phone calls, voicemail, and sending messages, Google collects information related to that use like your phone number, the date and time of your calls and messages, the length of your calls, and who you called or who called you.
Your location information
When you use Google services, Google also collects information about your location. Google can know your location by using GPS, your IP address, sensor data from your device, and information about things around you like Wi-Fi, cell towers, and Bluetooth devices.
What Else Does Google Know About Me?
We’re not done quite yet!
Google’s core service is Google Search. It’s so popular that we use “Google it” to mean search the internet because Google is how we access the internet.
Google indexes huge swathes of the internet to help searchers find what they’re looking for. That indexing is done by sending web-crawlers through millions of websites to gather information about everything.
If your information is to be found on the internet, it is very possible that Google has indexed that information. For example, if you have a Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn profile, chances are that Google has indexed those pages and if you search for your name on Google, those pages are likely to show up. Of course, if you have a common name yours might be buried in the thousands of search results, but the point still stands. Google has collected and indexed the world’s information, so they also know things about you based on what other information is floating around the internet.
One Last Category
Google also may collect information about you from its partners, including marketing partners, security partners, and advertising partners.
Why Does Google Know So Much About Me?
This I think is the next natural question once you’ve learned more about what Google knows about you.
They explain seven reasons why they collect information from all of their services:
- Provide their services
- Maintain and improve their services
- Develop new services
- Provide personalized services, including content and ads
- Measure performance
- Communicate with you
- Protect Google, its users, and the public
These reasons make a lot of sense, especially when you are talking about something like searching “Restaurants near me” and Google being able to recognize where you are and what restaurants are close by. It also makes sense that Google stores your emails if you use Gmail as your email provider. We can go on and on with how each piece of information is used for one of these seven reasons.
What This Means To You
If you’ve stayed with me for this entire article, I hope that you understand a little better how much information Google knows about you.
What you think about this is up to you and your preferences. You may think that it all makes sense and it’s completely reasonable for Google to know and collect all of this information. You may also think this is terrifying that so much information about you is known by one single organization.
I sit in the middle. I use a lot of Google services and I’m okay with Google collecting some information about me for those services. There are some privacy settings that I’ve chosen to adjust because I don’t feel comfortable with that information being shared. I trust Google with some things, but not with others.
This article isn’t meant to help you decide what to do about Google knowing so much about you, it’s just meant to show you what Google does know.
We’re working on an article as a guide to Google’s privacy settings, so you can take what you learned and know how to change your privacy settings to match your preferences.
We’ll update this article when this guide is done! Or you are welcome to subscribe to our email list and you’ll get notified when we release new articles.
We recommend our other great article, What Does Facebook Know About You?