Skip to Content
© Pras Boonwong | Dreamstime.com
Security & privacy

See the shocking amount of data Google collects from your phone

Apple recently changed its policy and now forces app developers to tell you what data the app will collect with “privacy labels” before downloading it. Developers must also reveal what this information is being used for.

And in most cases, it’s for third-party advertising. Tap or click here to see exactly what info your iPhone apps are collecting.

Even if you use Apple devices, like an iPhone, you may still use some Google products. Google finally has decided to disclose how much data is being collected on you if you use Gmail on your iPhone. The amount being collected is shocking!

Google’s treasure trove of information

Things get a bit murky when it comes to Google. Eagle-eyed iPhone users would have noticed that Google’s Gmail app didn’t update when iOS 14 added the privacy labels change.

In fact, Gmail was only updated a month later — with some big privacy changes. While you still need to consent to Gmail and YouTube gathering your information, few iOS users will realize how much it is.

Why, you may ask? Well, that’s because advertising is how services like Gmail and YouTube make money. Google eventually added the new privacy labels for its iOS apps, but many people tap through to download an app without pausing.

Very few will stop to read the terms and conditions or the app’s privacy policy. Taking the time to go through Gmail’s privacy notifications, it might come as a shock what personal information Google has on you.

RELATED: Has WhatsApp been sharing your data with Facebook for years?

To download the app and use the free services, you must agree to the terms and conditions. Allowing third-party advertisers to know your location, User ID and usage data is just the beginning.

Apple App Store

For Google’s “Product Personalization,” the app gathers your contact list, emails or text messages, audio data and search history. It also monitors how you interact with other products and services.

Under the “App Functionality” tab, Gmail links the following data to you:

  • Purchases
  • Location
  • Contact Info
  • Emails or Text Messages
  • Photos or Videos
  • Audio Data
  • Search History
  • User ID
  • Device ID
  • Product Interaction
  • Other Data Types

Other Data Types are a mystery

The last point of “Other Data Types” is not explained, so you would really have no idea what else is collected. While not explicitly stated on Gmail’s app page in the App Store, a notification on Google’s Privacy & Terms page lists your IP address is also being stored.

In addition to all the above, Google also links to your profile:

  • Your device type and settings
  • Operating system
  • Mobile network information
  • Your mobile carrier name and phone number
Gmail privacy iOS

Tracking your location is also a simple task for a tech giant like Google. It says that “your location can be determined with varying degrees of accuracy” and is done through GPS, IP address, sensors from your phone and nearby Wi-Fi points or cell towers.

Watch out for productivity apps, too

If you use Google Chrome, you’re probably aware of third-party cookies tracking your behavior. However, the company officially announced it would start phasing them out in early 2022. Google also said it wouldn’t build new identifiers or tools to track you across different websites.

But that’s in the far future, and in the meantime, Google Chrome shares your activity with advertisers. Until it permanently cuts out the cookies, we recommend using alternate browsers like DuckDuckGo. Tap or click here for the best Google alternatives that cut down on tracking.

Not convinced? Check out this list of everything Google’s app knows about you. Here’s all the data linked to your account:

Now, let’s look at Google Maps. Interestingly enough, Google didn’t provide any app privacy details in the play store. Although this GPS app takes a lot of stress off your shoulders when you’re driving around new areas, its geolocation capabilities can track you wherever you go.

For example, unless you specifically turn off location tracking for pictures, every photo you snap is embedded with metadata. In other words, you can share a photo online, and a tech-savvy investigator can farm that photo for the exact coordinates. They can track down exactly where you stood to take the photo – it’s some scary stuff.

If you want to stop Google Maps and Photos from tracking your location, we’ve got a handy guide that will help you hide your history. Tap or click here to find out what location data is lurking in your photos.

Do you use Google Drive to work on the go? Here’s what the app knows

Google Drive also collects location data on you and contact information, search history and usage data. Scroll down to the App Privacy section, and you’ll also see the nebulous “Other Data” label. There’s no clarification of what counts as “other data,” but here’s everything this app collects on you:

If you use Google Drive, you probably also use Google Docs. This app is great for writing on the go and staying productive while you’re away from the cubicle.

On the flip side, Google Docs handles a ton of sensitive data. Because of this, you may not want to connect to public Wi-Fi while you’re using it. Otherwise, hackers could have access to all of this critical information:

  • Location
  • Contacts
  • Search history
  • Usage data
  • Contact info
  • User content
  • Identifiers
  • Diagnostics
  • Other data

If you use other Google productivity apps, like Sheets, Voice, Hangouts or Slides, look up your apps in the play store. Scroll down to the heading named App Privacy to see exactly what data this app is collecting. You may be surprised to see how many of your secrets are exposed.

What can you do about it?

Before downloading any app, you should click through to the app’s privacy settings. These notifications are now required for apps in Apple’s App Store and you should read them to make an informed decision.

How to check what data apps are collecting on your iPhone:

  • Open the Settings app on your iOS device.
  • Scroll to Privacy.
  • In Privacy, you should see all of the app permissions that your iPhone or iPad has. This includes Location Services, Contacts, Calendars, Camera, Microphone, Health, Motion & Fitness and other permissions.
  • Tap a specific permission to see which apps are requesting it.
  • Toggle on or off to allow or deny permission to track the information in each category.
    • Note: You will have the option to review each app’s location data access. Depending on the app, you may want to allow location permissions while using the app.

Choose a more private and secure email service

Adjusting permissions is a good start, but the best way to make sure your email service isn’t collecting your data is to switch to one you can trust. As we said earlier, free services like Gmail are free for a reason: to collect your data and sell it to advertisers.

Unlike Gmail, our sponsor StartMail doesn’t monitor your purchases, trips you take, correspondence with friends and more. It doesn’t collect or share data with third parties. Plus, it doesn’t track your online activity like Gmail, Yahoo or other alternatives do. That means there’s no one building a personal profile based on your private emails.

To make it even better, Kim has set up a special deal for you. Tap or click and get 50% off your first year at StartMail.com/Kim. You can’t beat that! What are you waiting for?

Keep reading

Pro tip: Think twice before you click ‘OK’ on this iPhone pop-up

10 Facebook privacy and security settings to change ASAP

Komando.com App background

Check out the free Komando.com App!

Get the latest tech updates and breaking news on the go, straight to your phone, with the Komando.com App, available in the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

Download Now