Google has an iffy record when it comes to privacy, with some critics condemning the company for the way it subtly tracks and records user activity. But if you want to see for yourself just how much the company has on you, there’s an easy way to download all your Google data in one handy file.
Google has made a foolproof tool called Takeout, which you can use to compile and download all your personal info. It’s easy to use, but it collates a vast array of data – so it can take a couple of days before your files are ready to download.
Want to review your complete internet history? Here’s how to get the process started.
Download all your data
- Go the Takeout settings page and select everything you want to download (photos, calendar reminders, maps history, etc.) When you’ve finished, scroll down and click “Next step.”
- Select how you want your download to be sent (via email or directly to cloud storage) and then select how frequently you’ll want the data compiled. You can set it in a way that your data is sent over every two months, or you can do it as a one-off experience.
- Now you’re pretty much ready to go – just click “Create export” and wait for that download link to land in your inbox.
This can be a fairly overwhelming amount of data to look through, so here are some quick ways to access your info if you don’t want to trawl through the full set.
Related: Zoom vs Google Meet
See your full search history
If you want to check on how frequently you’re Googling your ex, this is the quickest way to do it.
- Head to your Google account page and click on “Data and personalisation” in the top left.
- Scroll down until you see a box titled “Activity and timeline” then click “My Activity.”
- This should then generate a list of your Google activity – if you’ve blocked Google from tracking your search history, you probably won’t see much here. But you can still see past searches by opening the history tab in your browser.
Check your Maps activity
As well as tracking your virtual activities, Google likes to track your physical movements as well. Want to remember where you were this time three years ago? Simply:
- Head to your “Data and personalisation” page and scroll down to that “Activity and timeline” box again.
- Click ‘Timeline’, and you should see all your localisation history, which shows where you’ve been and when.
Review your YouTube viewing habits
This info is bundled up in the general activity view, but if you just want to clock how many times you’ve watched a particular video, here’s how to do it.
- Head to “My Activity” when you’re signed in to your Google account.
- In the search bar at the top of the page, click “Filter by date and product.”
- Select the YouTube filter and press apply. You should now see a long list of everything you’ve ever watched on YouTube.
See ad personalisation – and turn it off
You might think that data harvesting is relatively harmless, but wait until you see Google’s creepily accurate ad profile based on your internet use. To view this:
- Sign in to your account and open up your ad settings page. It’s likely that you’ll see your age, gender, relationship status and sexual orientation listed here. Fun!
- Not keen on the company having all that detailed info? You can turn off ad personalisation by tabbing off the option that appears at the top of the personalisation page.
Google provides its own details on how to manually delete your account activity here – but it’s worth pointing out that the company says this:
“Even when activity is deleted, some data about your use of Google services may be kept for the life of your Google Account.”