There is ever-increasing concern about the volume of data that internet companies have about users, and Google is right at the top of that list. Its business model is largely based on knowing what links you’re likely to open, and that means collecting lots of data. You can see that data in your Google account, but it’s not very accessible. Google is working to change that, and it’s starting with probably the biggest repository of your personal habits: Google Search.
Currently, you can see your search activity by logging into your Google account control dashboard. This is a “one-stop shop” of all things related to your Google persona. You can check your sign-in security, change payment methods, and dig into the data contained within all your Google services. Google’s intention with the new account experience is to surface the data from those apps in the apps themselves.
Soon, your Google Search UI will include a link in the menu right next to settings for “Your data in search.” Tap that, and you’ll instantly get into the menu that used to be buried several menus deep in the My Account landing page.
The data includes more than just search terms — search keeps a log of everything you did while interacting with Google. The app (and Google’s website) may record the search term, your location, the time, and the results you clicked. This all fees into Google’s model about who you are and what you like. Part of this goes toward personalizing your results so you don’t have to scroll as far to get the right link. The other side is ads, which is where Google makes its money. Here’s a weirdly cheerful video to explain that.
You can opt out of personalized ads in Google, but you can also just clip out data from your account activity that you feel paints an inaccurate (or too intimate) portrait of you. Activity Controls in your account can change what data Google records going forward. The new data link in Search will also include a quick link to your ad settings, which Google considers especially relevant in this instance.
The account data link is launching now on the web and mobile web versions of Google. The Android and iOS apps will get the link in a few weeks. Next year, Google plans to add a similar link to Google Maps. Other Google products will follow after that.
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