Keeping control of your internet privacy in 2015 is no easy task, especially when it comes to Google sucking up your data. But today the internet giant is taking big strides to help you reclaim power over your information.
Google's launching an overhaul to its 'My Account' section, where you can alter a number of privacy settings as well as better understand where your data is stored and how it's used.
Certain settings have already been available, but Google is both making your settings more tweakable and easier to find. Rolling out from today, the 'My Account' section will better serve up as an all-in-one hub for all of these things.
However, Google is very aware that many people who use its service don't sign into a Google account. With that in mind, Google's making the 'My Account' page accessible to users who aren't signed in. They'll be able to access the following:
- Search personalisation, letting you prevent Google from predicting your query as you type based on prior searches.
- YouTube personalisation, allowing you to stop YouTube using previously watched videos to recommend others.
- Ads settings, which will let signed-out users prevent Google from targeting ads based on their interests.
When you are signed in, however, you'll be able to use 'My Account' to access a variety of different settings, some of which offer quite granular tweaks.
So what will you see if you are signed in?
As you can see, there are three main section on the signed-in Account page, but it's the middle one that's the biggy. In there you'll find...
Your personal info
Under this section you can see all of the information that is tied to your Google account. Email address, phone numbers and settings related to your Google+ profile, should you have one, can all be found within these walls.
As well as seeing your search and browsing history, you'll also be able to see location history, which logs everywhere you go when logged-in; information taken from your devices, including contacts, calendars and apps; voice searches and more.
All of these can be managed, or toggled on/off completely. Say you wanted to turn on your location history for improved Maps, you can toggle it on but still go in and delete individual entries, days, or the entire thing.
The same goes with the other settings found in Account History. You can also "pause" settings, though this will not delete all of their information. If you do want to delete the information, you can do so by going into "manage activity".
We've already mentioned how non-signed-in users will see ad settings. Signed-in users will see ads settings on their dashboard. Here you can discover why certain are appearing as you browse the web, and what information Google is using to cause this to happen.
You won't be able to turn off ads entirely, but Google will allow you to make the ads you see more relevant by updating your interests, demographic details and other bits. You can also choose to block specific advertisers or ads based on certain interests.
The next option down on the dashboard, Account overview, will bring up a link to the Dashboard. The Google Dashboard brings up a handy overview of all the data that's being stored in that Google account.
Control your content
Finally, there's 'control your content', where you can download or make a copy of all your Google data. If you were to switch to a different providor, or wanted to archive your data in case of something happening to you.
In order to help users understand all of this, Google's created a new Privacy Checkup that walks users through controls related to their Google+ account, reviews phone numbers associated with their Google account (and whether or not they're discoverable), and finally brings up both account history and ad setting controls.
So... how do I find it?
The most direct route to access all of this is going directly through 'My Account', which signed-in users have traditionally accessed by clicking their avatar on the One Google bar. Google is altering this so the big blue button named 'View Profile' that normally pops up will now become 'My Account', just to make things a tad easier.
But Google is letting users get to these controls via the search engine too. If you search for something like "change Google password" or "Google dashboard", the results will start with the most important information as well as a link to the relevant section in My Account. Google promises it will refine this process over time.
"In addition, we really want to make sure that users know that My Account even exists. So between now and throughout the summer, we'll be highlighting different features within My Account through things like promotions on the Google homepage, callouts and push down boxes".
'I want to know more about what Google does with my data'
In an effort to be more transparent in the way it captures and uses your data, Google has launched a new site that aims to be more upfront about the bigger privacy questions. With that, and everything else we've discussed, some users might not yet see the overhauled versions, but hold tight - it's all rolling out now.
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Hugh Langley is the ex-News Editor of TechRadar. He had written for many magazines and websites including Business Insider, The Telegraph, IGN, Gizmodo, Entrepreneur Magazine, WIRED (UK), TrustedReviews, Business Insider Australia, Business Insider India, Business Insider Singapore, Wareable, The Ambient and more.
Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider covering Google and Alphabet, and has the unfortunate distinction of accidentally linking the TechRadar homepage to a rival publication.