What Does Google Know About You?


Ah yes, Google ads. The very stuff of Google itself. It’s how it makes its money and knowing more about you is what makes it tick. But what does Google really know? How accurate is their information? You might be surprised at the amount of information they have gathered up by watching you click things on the internet and what’s more, you might be astonished at how accurate it can be.

Take Control Of Google Ads

If you’d like to see the personal information Google has about you regarding advertising, go to this Google Ads Settings page. (You will have to be signed in to your Google account for this to work.) You’ll end up on a page that probably looks nothing like mine because I have disabled almost everything. You will probably be staring at a page that has a whole list of ad preferences. If that’s not bad enough, they will know your age, too. No matter how many times I try to disable that information it won’t go away. There’s no way that I’m over 39 years old, Jack!! No way, I tell you!!

ad-personalization

Right at the beginning of that page, there is a toggle switch that lets you turn everything off. That, of course, is the first choice many people would make, but contrary to your first impulse, it is not necessarily the best one. The reason being:

  • You’ll still see ads (but they may be less useful to you)
  • You’ll no longer be able to turn off ads from specific advertisers
  • Any advertisers or interests you’ve turned off won’t be saved

With personalization off, ads you see can still be based on general factors, like the subject of what you’re looking at, the time of day, or your general location. ~ Google

On this page, you can click each advertising profile from specific advertisers and choose to turn off the ones that don’t apply to you. Ahhh, that’s better…

Digital Advertising Alliance

Just below that On/Off toggle switch is a link: Control ad personalization on other websites & apps that use Google ad services

Clicking that will bring you to a Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) page.

Note: In order for that DAA page to work properly I had to disable my ad blocker and also allow third-party cookies in my browser.

Once there, it immediately starts a scan of its 134-site database and examines your current browser configuration. You will then be presented with a pop-up explaining a few things:

status-check-complete

When I first ran this I was notified that it couldn’t do its job properly because of certain browser settings, namely the aforementioned Cookies setting, and the ad blocker.

Click the Continue button and you will see something like this:

opt-out-choices

After a bit of tinkering, I was able to get all 134 advertisers to show “No” in the Optimizing Ads on your Browser column. Each time you run a scan, that pop-up will tell you if there is a problem.

The Contrary Cookie Issue

I like to disable third-party cookies from sites I have not visited. Now, if I do that, all those opt-out cookies will be removed effectively negating all my hard opt-out work. This means that I can no longer disable those cookies if I want the opt-out cookies to do their work. Damn the bad luck… I will leave them enabled for the time being and see if I notice a change in the advertising I see on various sites.

How about you? Have you turned everything off or left some on? Do you even care about this type of tracking?

Let us know in the comments,

Richard

About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Richard. Sad news indeed. As you are aware, I block ads using special blockers, limiting my exposure and having my real IP address replaced. Thanks to Adguard
    ( adguard.com ) plus several others which all work together nicely. So am I right in thinking that if I never shared information with Google, they know nothing about me, Mindblower!

    • Hi MB!

      My guess is that they still know plenty about you. There are plenty of ways they get information. Do you ever watch a YouTube video? Do you ever use one of their many devices? How about one of many, many services they provide on the internet (none of them will have the name Google stamped on them)? Did you know that all those Facebook, Instagram and Twitter buttons you see on nearly every website will track you whether you click on them or not? Then, there are plenty of Cookies chock-full of information that are added to your system everywhere you surf, even from sites you’ve never been to.

      Do you use a phone other than a landline? Even if you only use a landline they know your phone number, your address, how long you’ve lived there, if you own your residence or rent, if you live alone or have family, what their names are and their ages, and probably know if you wear pajamas to bed. Did you ever buy pajamas online? What have you purchased online? The more you think about these things, the worse it gets.

      Sorry, but it’s damn near impossible to escape them (and not only Google but all of them) unless you pull the plug on every internet-connected device you own. Even then, they still have all the information they have already accrued about you over the years. Their tentacles reach into the darkest corners of the Web.

      I’m not Google but I can still tell you where you live and what you’re longitude and latitude are, regardless of whether you’ve changed your IP address over the years. It’s too easy to know these things and as I said, I’m no Google. I could even show you a map but I didn’t want to blare this information all over the internet. I, at least, respect your privacy.

      It is the world we live in and you and I are products of the times,
      Richard

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