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What does Google know about me?

What does Google know about me?
© Prykhodov | Dreamstime

Let's face it, the internet has changed your life in countless good ways. You can chat with family and friends around the world in real time.

You get news alerts about bad weather, rush-hour traffic and missing children. You take dozens of photos each week and post them in minutes to Facebook, where everyone you care about will see them and comment on them.

Of course, there are serious downsides to all this communication. We've told you before that hackers can tap into your online accounts to steal your credit card numbers and ID.

We've shared creepy stories about people remotely talking to your children on internet-connected baby monitors. We've also warned about ransomware schemes where hackers hold your computer hostage.

But there are more subtle ways that your privacy is at risk. That includes Google collecting your private information.

You may not think about this every day. But you need to check your Google account to see how much it knows about you.

It's a lot! But don't panic, we'll tell you how to limit the amount of information that Google collects about you.

To its credit, Google says on its Privacy Policy page: "Our goal is to be clear about what information we collect so that you can make meaningful choices about how it is used."

What You Like

Have you ever wondered why you see online ads that are eerily similar to your recent online searches? One reason for that is that Google's keeping track of you and tailors its ads to your interests.

If you're like most people, you search for topics from time to time that don't interest you. If you're a Super Bowl commercial fan, for instance, Google might think you're a football fan - so you'll see football ads.

To find out which topics Google thinks you like, visit its Ad Settings page (click on this blue link). You'll notice on this page that Google also knows your gender and age (how dare they!).

Here's what you must know: To turn off advertising topics that you don't like, click on the X next to that topic. To turn off this feature altogether, go to the top of the page where it says Ads Personalization >> slide the button to the right of it to turn it off. (Google will ask you to confirm that you want to turn off this feature.)

Where You've Been

There is something endlessly interesting about seeing all the cities and countries you've visited. It can be unsettling, though, to see that Google has been tracking your whereabouts.

Think about it. If you're using Google Maps and GPS, Google knows where you are and where you've been.

Here's how to turn off your location history: Click here to get to your Timeline page >> click on Manage Location History at the bottom of the page >> slide the button to the right of Location History >> choose Pause.

What You've Searched For

Google has good reason to keep track of you and your interests. It uses this information to sell advertising and to develop new websites, devices and features.

But your privacy is critically important to you. Feel free to really dig into Google and turn off any tracking features that make you uneasy.

This unnerving tracking feature comes to mind: Google's My Activity page (click this link to see yours). Click on the menu (three dots) in the upper-right corner of the screen >> Activity Controls >> Manage My Activity.

Bonus: Scroll down this page to manage which activities Google tracks on YouTube and other sites and apps.

Manage Your Privacy

Google is pretty good about telling you what data it collects about you. It's also pretty good about telling you how to manage your privacy.

Most of these functions, like the Privacy Checkup, start on Google's Privacy Control page (click here to open it). Click on Take the Privacy Checkup >> select the features that you don't want Google tracking.

You will be shocked by how much you are sharing with complete strangers on Facebook

Facebook, you have to love it and be creeped out by it at the same time. When you're sharing information with family and friends, it can quickly spread to the site's 2 billion users.

Click here to find out what private information you're sharing with strangers.

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