Sunday, May 29, 2022

Google Privacy Checkup FAQ: How to limit tracking and still use the apps you love

It’s been a rough month for Google. A new report by Digital Content Next reveals some troubling news: Android phones, even when idle, send data to Google at an alarming pace. In fact the study found that an Android phone “communicated location information to Google 340 times during a 24-hour period” with the Chrome browser merely active in the background. That’s 10 times more data than iPhones give up.

If that’s not enough to scare you, this report comes on the heels of a class-action lawsuit filed after Google was accused of being less than clear about how, when, and where it tracks your location. In response to an AP report that showed Android phones still tracked location even with Location History turned off, Google changed some of the verbiage on its privacy page to be clearer, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to change its tactics.

So if Google’s tracking treachery rankles you, you can do something about it—and you don’t have to delete Google from your life entirely to do so (tempting as that sounds). You might not know it, but you have a surprising amount of control over your Google account, as long as you know where to find all the switches. Here’s everything you need to know about Google’s privacy settings: where to find them, what you can turn off, and how it all affects your phone.

Google Privacy Checkup

No matter which Android phone you’re using or the version of Android that it’s running, you can adjust the privacy settings across all of your devices just by visiting the Settings app. Head over to the Settings app and you’ll either find a Google tab or an Accounts tab with a Google option inside. Once you find it, click on Google Account or your email address, and you’ll be taken to your full account page.

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Google rpovides a Privacy Checkup for every account.

This page is accessible on any device or the web, and it’s pretty easy to navigate. Near the top you’ll see a box called Review your privacy settings, which leads to the Privacy Checkup guide. Tap Get started to get an overview of your current settings. By default, everything will be turned on, but there are several layers that can be switched off (or paused, as Google labels it).

Web & App Activity

What is it?

This is the setting that’s been causing Google so much trouble. Independent from Location History (see below), Web & App Activity saves your searches, places, and other Google activity to your Google account. That includes browser and Google app searches as well as location data in Maps and Assistant queries. Google says it uses this data to “give you more personalized experiences across Google services, like faster searches, better recommendations, and useful ads, both on and off Google.”

How do I turn it off?

Tap the Turned on button and flip the toggle from blue to gray on the next page. Then tap Pause when prompted.

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You can delete individual items saved inside the Web & App Activity window or completely turn it off.

How does it affect my phone?

The general Google experience on your phone won’t be all that different, but the things you’re searching for might take longer to find. Google uses the web activity data to learn what and where you search in order to autocomplete searches, personalize what you see, and just generally deliver smarter results. So you’ll be searching without a net rather than getting results tailored specifically for your tastes. But all of your queries will work pretty much the same way.


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