UPDATE (May 1, 2019): A Major New Privacy-Positive Move by Google
UPDATE (April 24, 2017): Quick Tutorial: Deleting Your Data Using Google’s “My Activity”
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There’s a page at Google that dedicated Google Haters don’t like to talk about. In fact, they’d prefer that you didn’t even know that it exists, because it seriously undermines the foundation of their hateful anti-Google fantasies.
A core principle of Google hatred is the set of false memes concerning Google and user data collection. This is frequently encapsulated in a fanciful “You are the product!” slogan, despite the fact that (unlike the dominant ISPs and many other large firms) Google never sells user data to third parties.
But the haters hate the idea that data is collected at all, despite the fact that such data is crucial for Google services to function at the quality levels that we have come to expect from Google.
I was thinking about this again today when I started hearing from users reacting to Google’s announcement of multiple user support for Google Home, who were expressing concerns about collection of more individualized voice data (without which — I would note — you couldn’t differentiate between different users).
We can stipulate that Google collects a lot of data to make all of this stuff work. But here’s the kicker that the haters don’t want you to think about — Google also gives you enormous control over that data, to a staggering degree that most Google users don’t fully realize.
The Golden Ticket gateway to this goodness is at:
There’s a lot to explore there — be sure to click on both the three vertical dots near the upper top and on the three horizontal bars near the upper left to see the full range of options available.
This page is a portal to an incredible resource. Not only does it give you the opportunity to see in detail the data that Google has associated with you across the universe of Google products, but also the ability to delete that data (selectively or in its totality), and to determine how much of your data will be collected going forward for the various Google services.
On top of that, there are links over to other data related systems that you can control, such as Takeout for downloading your data from Google, comprehensive ad preferences settings (which you can use to adjust or even fully disable ad personalization), and an array of other goodies, all supported by excellent help pages — a lot of thought and work went into this.
I’m a pragmatist by nature. I worry about organizations that don’t give us control over the data they collect about us — like the government, like those giant ISPs and lots of other firms. And typically, these kinds of entities collect this data even though they don’t actually need it to provide the kinds of services that we want. All too often, they just do it because they can.
On the other hand, I have no problems with Google collecting the kinds of data that provide their advanced services, so long as I can choose when that data is collected, and I can inspect and delete it on demand.
The google.com/myactivity portal provides those abilities and a lot more.
This does imply taking some responsibility for managing your own data. Google gives you the tools to do so — you have nobody but yourself to blame if you refuse to avail yourself of those excellent tools.
Or to put it another way, if you want to use and benefit from 21st century technological magic, you really do need to be willing to learn at least a little bit about how to use the shiny wand that the wizard handed over to you.