For all the many controversies around Facebook's mishandling of personal data, Google actually knows way more about most of us.
That's the takeaway from "What Google knows about you," the second in a series of looks by Axios at all the data being collected by large tech companies. Back in January we took a look at "What Facebook knows about you."
The bottom line: Just how much Google knows depends to some degree on your privacy settings — and to a larger degree on which devices, products and services you use.
- In my story, I outline what information Google does and doesn't collect, as well as steps users can take to limit what gets shared with the company as well as ways to see and delete some of what it already knows.
Yes, but: Google's reach is nearly inescapable, as Gizmodo's Kashmir Hill found out when she tried to shut the search giant out of her digital life.
- She not only switched browsers, search engines and email platforms, but also had access to Google-run servers disabled.
- The result was a nearly unworkable internet and the loss of key services including Spotify, Uber and Lyft.
The big picture: Google isn't just its namesake search service. It also gets lots of data from its Chrome browser, as well as from YouTube, devices running its Android operating system, Google Assistant and Google Maps. There's also hardware products like Nest and Google Home.
- Even those who don’t actively choose Google’s services still probably have a fair amount of information landing on its servers. It's a huge player in digital advertising, with widely used tools for serving ads and providing analytics.
Between the lines: A study last year by Vanderbilt University’s Douglas Schmidt found that Google and Chrome are sending plenty of data to Google even without any user action, including location data (assuming a user hasn't chosen not to share such information).
- Google challenged some of the study's points and highlighted some new privacy tools, but Schmidt says his key findings remain the same.
- “You can fiddle around with a few knobs and make yourself feel better,” Schmidt tells Axios. “I don’t think much has changed.”
Go deeper: Read the full piece here.