Maybe it's not fair that Facebook is receiving all this criticism for what it knows about us and how it uses that information. Not because they haven't done questionable things because of course, they have.
No, it might not be fair because Facebook is not the only online media company to do such a thing. Turns out, Google not only collects data but might be even worse about it than Facebook.
That's right, for all the grief Facebook is getting over what it has done, Google probably deserves even more. Is this the price we all pay for the online services we get to enjoy?
It's like Facebook's data on steroids
It probably should not be surprising that Google has even more on us than Facebook because so much of what we do involves Google. We use them for email, maps, photos and many other things, and while we likely never thought about how that could lead to us being tracked, it can and has.
None of that may be all that surprising, but it was brought to our attention when IT expert Dylan Curran created a thread about it on Twitter.
Want to freak yourself out? I'm gonna show just how much of your information the likes of Facebook and Google store about you without you even realising it
— Dylan Curran (@iamdylancurran) March 24, 2018
From there, Curran went on to post more than 30 tweets explaining what Google has tracked along with what its ramifications are. It almost reads like a horror movie, one that we realize will be difficult to escape from.
Here's how you check
If you want to dive down into that rabbit hole, Google provides a way to do so. You will want to go to Google.com, and assuming you are signed into your account, open up the apps tab by clicking on the square made up of nine smaller squares in the top-right corner.
Click on the box and then, on the next menu, select "My Account." That will open up a new page with a bevy of options. All offer different services for you, but in this case, you will want to choose "Personal info & privacy."
That will take you to this page:
Clicking on "My Activity" will take you to a page that displays your timeline, with the most recent activities at the top. On the left-hand side is a column with plenty of options, including "Delete activity by" and "Activity controls."
The former option will allow you to remove individual things, whereas the latter will take you to a new page that presents a list of what kind of things Google has tracked. Each window, colorful as they are, offers a chance to "Manage Activity." Click on that.
Depending on which feature you choose to manage, the next screen will look different. Regardless, it will give you the option to see, adjust and/or delete parts of your history.
You can also download your entire history
If you are really curious about what Google knows about you, the option to download your entire history is there. To do that, you will follow the first couple steps listed above, just when you get to the page after clicking on "Personal info & privacy" scroll down until you see the section for "Control your content."
Click on "Create Archive" and then choose what, exactly, you want downloaded. Keep in mind that the more you choose to download, the larger the file will be. Given that this is your entire Google history, it could be pretty sizable.
It really is a lot of information
Really, Google tracks what you have searched for, things you have watched, places you have been, photos you have taken, ads you have clicked on and apps you have searched for. It has also logged your calendar events, browser history, apps you have installed and used and your emails -- sent and received, deleted and spam.
Does that seem like a lot? It should because it is. And you thought Facebook was playing the role of "Big Brother."
Ultimately it is up to you to decide how offended you are by what data is collected, and whether or not it is all enough to get you to disconnect a bit. Neither Google nor Facebook costs money to use, but the price we pay for them is information.
When it comes to data collection, as this table (with help from the Daily Mail) illustrates, Google has Facebook beat by a wide margin.
|Online search history||Messenger messages sent or received|
|Events in Google calendar||Every Facebook friend|
|Locations visited||All voice calls made through Facebook|
|Time spent getting to and|
staying in a location
|All smartphone contacts|
|Downloaded images||Every text message sent or received|
|Files uploaded to Google Drive||All phone calls|
|Google Fit workouts||Files sent or received|
|Photos taken, including metadata||Each time logged into Facebook|
|Every ad viewed or clicked on||Stickers or emojis sent|
|Marketing topics of interest|
|Every app searched for and/or installed|
|All YouTube searches and views|
|Every email sent, received or deleted|
Why collect all of this data?
No one will blame you if you feel like Google has overstepped with all of this. After all, just because they can track us does not mean they should.
However, according to Google, the three main types of data they collect -- things you do, things you create and things that make you 'you,' -- are all recorded in hopes of improving your Google services.
As they say, location data will help with Google Maps while searching information will allow it to find videos you'll want to watch. Also, Google having a better idea of who you are helps it fill out Google searches for you, as well as automatically populate forms.
Similar to Facebook, it is up to you to decide just how valuable those perks are at the expense of your online privacy.
Enough about Google, what has Facebook done?
Every Facebook user is now evaluating whether or not it's worth it to stay connected. To make the right decision for you means you need to know what's happening and what your options are. That's why I'm here, to help you sift through all of the nonsense, and give you the facts.