The recent spat of controversies involving the use or rather the misuse of personal data by social media giant Facebook, including discovery that Facebook was storing user’s call and text logs though its Messenger app. These incidents has led people focus on how much what kind of information they are feeding the internet with via sites like Facebook and Google.
Dylan Curran who goes by the Twitter handle @iamdylancurran broke down all the information stored by Google and Facebook. Google’s ecosystem extends not only to Search, but across different products such as Maps, YouTube, Photos, Gmail, Contacts and more.
You can check and download all your information and data saved through your Google account by following these steps.
You can click on this link to check your activity on Google Maps. Here, you will see a timeline showing all the places you’ve visited the most. You can check your travel route for a specific day, month or year. Google’s records for Maps starts from 2009.
Google My Activity
Clicking on this link will take you to Google’s ‘My Activity’ page. This is more of a detailed history page for all your activity on Google Chrome. You will find your history of websites and pages visited on Chrome categorised as Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube. It essentially clubs pages you’ve often visited from one website under one category. Although this activity can be viewed only by you, what’s scary here is that it will show activity even if you’ve deleted your browsing history from Chrome.
Ever wondered how you search for a product online and the next thing you see are related ads flashing everywhere. This happens because of your usage being studied online to show tailor-made ads. This page will show you how Google personalises ads based on your usage behaviour and pattern. Google displays ads from its services like Search, YouTube and also across over 2 million non-Google websites and apps the company partners with.
You can choose to personalise the kind of ads you wish to see ranging from different topics and interests. You can also add your gender and age group for further personalisation of ads. Facebook has a similar option for ads displayed on the platform.
Apps and services
Here, you’ll find all the apps and services you have given permission to access your Google account. You can check and review what kind of permissions is granted to the apps and services. You can also revoke access to apps from this page. It also shows the date and time access was given to each app.
If you wish to download all the above mentioned information and more, you can do so by following this link. Google Takeout lets you create an archive of all your data from its products. You can choose among the Google products listed for information you want to download.
Dylan highlights that his downloaded archive contains intricate information like the Google Groups you’re a member of, music you listen to, and pages you’ve shared.
If you have the time and energy to scan through all the information stored by Google, you can follow the aforementioned steps. If this wasn’t scary enough there’s more. The biggest social media platform Facebook also has an archive of all your activity which you can download.
You will find this feature under the ‘Settings’ menu on Facebook. Facebook warns that this archive will contain “sensitive info like your private Wall posts, photos and profile information”. After entering your password, Facebook will start downloading the zipped file. Here, you’ll find folders of html files, photos, messages, and videos.
Under the ‘Photos’ folder you’ll find all the photos uploaded on your Facebook account, shared with you and ones you’re tagged on. There’s also a folder titled ‘Messages’ which contains files shared via Messenger. These include audio recordings, GIFs, stickers, photos and videos shared on Messenger. There’s a separate video folder as well for all files shared on Facebook.
This discovery of data archives is interesting and scary at the same time. While Google and Facebook assures that data being stored is accessible only by you, it still speaks volumes of the risk and vulnerability of what can leak out and fall into the wrong hands.
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