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14 eyebrow-raising things Google knows about you

JR Raphael | Dec. 16, 2016
Some are fascinating, others are frightening -- but here's how to find out what Google has on you.

Google may know more about me than I know about myself.

I'm not just saying that, either: I recently started poking around in Google's personal data repositories and realized that, between my wide-reaching use of the company's services and my own brain's inability to remember anything for more than seven seconds, Google may actually have the upper hand when it comes to knowledge about my life.

From face-tagged photos of my past adventures (what year did I go to Nashville, again -- and who went with me to that Eddie Vedder show?) to the minute-by-minute play-by-play of my not-so-adventuresome days (wait, you mean I really only left the house once last Wednesday -- and just to get a freakin' sandwich?!), Google's got all sorts of goods on me. Heck, even my hopes and dreams (which may or may not involve sandwiches) are probably catalogued somewhere in its systems.

And the data itself is only half the story: Google also compiles oodles of stats -- stats that, for better and for worse, shed light onto the tech-connected habits of our modern lives. How many emails have you actually sent over the years, for instance, and how many thousands of web pages have you pulled up in your browser? It really is enlightening, among other things, to see your actions broken down so precisely.

Before you freak out, though, remember: The only way anyone else could get at any of this info would be if they were to gain access to your Google account -- something two-factor authentication and good mobile security hygiene make highly unlikely.

And remember, too, that all this data collection is completely optional -- and very much a tradeoff: By agreeing to let Google store and use your data, you're getting access to an ever-expanding array of futuristic features at no monetary cost. But the decision is ultimately in your hands. To learn more about how Google uses specific types of data and how you can opt out of any or all areas of collection, see the "Opting out and taking control" section at the end of this story.

All of that being said, here are some of the more amusing -- and maybe slightly surprising -- things you might find about yourself by prodding the right parts of Google's noggin. How many of these items actually apply to you depends on which Google services you use and how exactly you use them. To wit: Android users who take advantage of built-in features such as voice commands, location history and photo backups will almost certainly have more data tracked by Google than non-Android users. But anyone who regularly uses Gmail, Google search, Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome and/or other Google services from any mobile device or computer will likely find at least some interesting nuggets from the following list.

 

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