Google is personalising the search results based on our behavoiur, and is tailoring our user experience based on the data it gleans as we interact with Google services. But what exactly does Google know about each of us?
Google Ad Preferences
Google is silently gathering information about our preferences, and is busily inferrings demographic information about you. Using cookies it is storing information that can be used by the AdWords network to show the most relevant advertising based on your profile.
You can see a snapshot of my demographics below.
I’m flattered to see that Google thinks I’m aged between 35 and 44. Must be because I’m so young at heart… When I last checked it thought I was a man, so at least now it got my gender right!
Click to enlarge image:
Update 26 Feb 2012: Google thinks Susan Hallam is a Man:
I can also see that from my cookies Google thinks I’m interested in the following 3 subjects, which isn’t too far off the mark, although I would have expected to see Travel and Leisure given how much of my time on the web is spent planning holidays.
You can see your own personalisation information at:
Now head over and take a look at your web history, which can be found at https://www.google.com/history/
You can see that Google is tracking your search keyphrase, and the sites you are clicking on. Looking at my own history I see that Google has tracked 17,426 searches on my account, and you can see my search about Google snooping, and the site that I chose to click on in the results.
Next, let’s go take a look at the information stored in your Google account, which can be found in your Google dashboard.
The dashboard contains a feast of data about all the ways in which I use Google products. I had no idea just how much I’m revealing to Google, and how the data can be integrated and aggregated:
- all my activity on Google Plus
- the sites that are in my Google reader
- my contacts on Gmail
- everything that I’m tracking in my Google alerts
- all my contacts in Google Circles
Google also has a menu called Social Connections showing the interrelationships of people you know. Seems a bit crude at the moment, but I’m sure it is going to become exceptionally powerful.
Your dashboard, however, does not display everything Google knows about you
And it is worth reading this support document that explains what else Google knows
And take a minute to watch this video about the Google dashboard:
So, what does Google know about you?
Probably a lot more than you thought!
It is making me uncomfortable, so my next steps are to:
- Remain signed out of my Google account as much as possible, but this is difficult given our company uses the Google Apps platform for our email services
- Use two browsers, one that is signed in and one browser that is not signed in. I’m going to start using the Chrome Incognito service and let you know how it goes. What a hassle…
- Opt out of the Google personalised ad preferences
- Prune out the information from my Google accounts
- Disable or at least edit my web search history
Google is Using Bribery to learn even more about us
A recent search took me to a website that informed me that Google are bribing users with an Amazon voucher US$25 if they agree to install software called Screenwise that spies on your behavoiur. More than 8,000 people volunteered.
Click to enlarge the image: