Everything You Need To Know About Google Data

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Google products have access to your GPS, IP address and sensor data for different reasons at different times, whether you’re using Google Maps or interacting with an app that is integrated with Firebase.

What Kind of Data Does Google Collect?

What Kind of Data Does Google Collect

Google has democratized web analytics and given website owners the ability to track analytics and visualize metrics since 2005 when they purchased the web statistics company Urchin. They have pushed products on the platform over the years that keep helping SMBs and, as such, we still recommend them.

Many companies that run alternative analytics software on their websites still run Google Analytics because it has become the standard in data collection.

Google is everywhere. In the digital architecture of the world wide web, Google may as well be the drywall of this metaphorical building. With more regulations trying to improve how consumer data is collected and protected across the world, such as the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act, consumers are increasingly becoming aware of how much of their personal data is out there and have greater expectations for how that data should be managed and protected.

Doug Leigh, a researcher from Trinity College, Ireland, found that the Google OS service Android collected 20x as much data as that of an iOS (Apple) device. The paper he published showed that even when idle, an Android device sent “1MB of data to Google every 12 hours, compared with iOS sending Apple about 52KB over the same period.”

How Google Collects Data

Google has access to your YouTube history and comments; the content in your emails with Gmail; the files you save in Google Drive; your search terms in Google Search; the places you’ve been in Google Maps; your schedule in Google Calendar; questions you’ve asked Google Assistant; the news you’ve read on Google News; the Google Ads you click on; and your spending habits through Google Pay.

Creating With Google Products

When you create a Google account, you add personal information like a phone number, credit card or email address. You could be creating a YouTube account to watch videos or to create content, but either way you’re contributing data to Google’s overview of who you are and what you like.

According to Google’s privacy policy, they “collect the content you create, upload, or receive from others when using our services. This includes things like email you write and receive, photos and videos you save, docs and spreadsheets you create, and comments you make on YouTube videos.”

Apps, Browsers, Devices

How you access Google products and services also matters when it comes to what data they track and why. This kind of information includes:

  • Unique identifiers
  • Browser type and settings
  • Device type and settings
  • Operating system
  • Mobile network information including carrier name and phone number
  • Application version number

They will also collect information on the apps, browsers and devices you use for/with their services, including IP address, crash reports, system activity and the date, time and referrer URL of your request.

Activity

  • Search terms on Google
  • Videos you watch
  • Views/interactions with content and ads
  • Voice and audio information when you use audio features
  • Purchase activity
  • People with whom you communicate/share content
  • Activity on third-party sites/apps that use Google Services
  • Chrome browsing history when synced with your Google Account

Location

Google products have access to your GPS, IP address and sensor data for different reasons at different times, whether you’re using Google Maps or interacting with an app that is integrated with Firebase.

Things near your devices, such as public Wi-Fi access points and cell towers will inform Google as to your geolocation. Bluetooth-enabled devices might also interact with bluetooth beacons that are specifically designed to target a small and accurate location radius.

Pixels, Cookies, Local Storage, Databases & Server Logs

These are technical details that Google can track either from a pixel implemented on a website (like the Universal Analytics tracking code), cookies, raw data from storage, databases and servers that you interact with that connect with Google or Google products.

In his research, Leigh pointed out that this is problematic “because it’s readily linked to a user’s name, email address, payment card data, and possibly to other devices the user has. What’s more, the constant connections to back-end servers necessarily reveals the IP address of the device and, by extension, the general geographic location of the user.”

Illustration of different types of people in front of the Google logo

What Kind of Data Can a Website Owner Access?

Google Analytics

If you run a website, chances are that you have already installed a Google Analytics tag to your site. If you haven’t yet, there are plenty of reasons why you should invest in having a Google Analytics account fully set up for you.

Although there are alternatives to Google Analytics, Google Analytics is a very user-friendly (and free) platform for you to track your website traffic and goals. Recently, Google has rolled out Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which also allows website owners to select what data they want to collect from visits to their website. This allows website owners to make conscious decisions as to how they treat consumer privacy and meet compliance requirements from GDPR and CCPA.

Google Analytics is a valuable tool that lets website owners know where their consumers found them, what actions they took on their website and can even show where the users are geographically located. It shows valuable insights into user behavior and tracks a lot of data, including pageviews, session data, event hits and ecommerce metrics. You can learn more about who your website visitors are with demographic reports that will give you data such as age, gender and interests.

Google Trends

Google is able to provide you with so much insight into your users because they collect a lot of information on users for your benefit. It gives you greater insight into your customers, especially when it comes time to running effective advertising campaigns.

But there’s another tool that is helpful. Google collects aggregate data from around the world. Because it is the de facto search engine and vastly popular, it has data sets rich in contextual information that it publishes on Google Trends.

Community Mobility Reports

Community Mobility Reports leverage the same kind of information that tells you how busy your local businesses are, and Google has enough data to provide baselines to let us know when the world is returning to normal.

This kind of information can be leveraged in various ways. One way we have been using these reports is by reading the trends in physical mobility to better implement geotargeting in our digital marketing efforts.

How the Google Analytics Tracking Code Works

The Google tracking code pulls a lot of information when a user visits your website. The Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) retrieves web page data in this sequence:

  1. A browser requests a web page that contains the tracking code.
  2. A JavaScript Array named _gaq is created and tracking commands are pushed onto the array.
  3. A element is created and enabled for asynchronous loading (loading in the background).
  4. The ga.js tracking code is fetched, with the appropriate protocol automatically detected. Once the code is fetched and loaded, the commands on the _gaq array are executed and the array is transformed into a tracking object. Subsequent tracking calls are made directly to Google Analytics.
  5. Loads the script element to the DOM.
  6. After the tracking code collects data, the GIF request is sent to the Analytics database for logging and post-processing.

What Kind of Data Is Collected in the GIF request?

Visitor information is sent to Google Analytics through a utm.gif image request. This technique allows Google to catalogue all the details about a user’s visit to your page in the form of a UTM.

  • Pageview data
  • Campaign data
  • Ecommerce data
  • Browser properties
  • Visitor IDs

The analytics script collects a lot of information about a visit to your site, from the page they visit (utmdt) to the resolution of the computer screen it was viewed on (utmsr). Not all parameters are sent with each page load; for example, ecommerce data is only sent on pages where it is relevant.

How to Set Up Google Analytics Tracking

Out-the-box website builders like Squarespace make it easy for you to add your Universal Analytics tracking code to a website, but it’s difficult to set goals for on-page events or further set up your analytics in a way that is dynamic and beneficial to your business objectives.

If you have a custom website created for your business, you have a lot more options and flexibility in managing your analytics. Our recommendation is that you implement your tracking code through Google Tag Manager (GTM), where you can also build all of your events out.

If you have your website built through WordPress, there are lots of useful plugins that integrate with your ecommerce platform to make it easy to measure ecommerce events from product views, cart actions and successful transactions, including how much they spent.

Who Benefits From All of This Data?

The diplomatic answer is that we all do.

Business owners benefit because they are able to better understand their marketing success, who their customers are and how they interact with their websites. They can make better decisions as to how they invest in their business, which channels produce better ROI, what trends they can get ahead of, and stay up to date as people start going out into the world again.

Consumers benefit because they are served advertisements for products and services they’re more inclined to be interested in. I would personally prefer to only see ads that align with my tastes. Consumers can also see in real-time how busy their favorite restaurants are before they try to get a table and how traffic is on the route there (and whether there are speed traps, car crashes or roadworks).

But, of course, Google benefits from collecting this information by building advertising profiles to better target advertisements that it runs through Google Ads.

What Kind of Data Can a Consumer Control?

Consumers increasingly have more autonomy on the kind of data they allow websites to track. You’ve probably noticed how thorough website cookies banners are getting: GDPR has made it so that all websites that conduct business in Europe have to be more transparent about the private data they collect, and make it easier for consumers to opt out of that collection process.

You can also see the information Google has collected about you on the Google My Activity page. A lot of your data collection settings can be controlled through your Google account, including the searches you do, the websites you visit and the places you go. But you will quickly see that Google products perform their best when they have access to the data that makes their services better.

For example, I changed my settings on YouTube so that it would no longer track what videos I watched. I stopped getting high-quality recommendations for new content I might be interested in, and I started to see a lot of repeat content in my feed that I had already seen. In short, I turned the settings back on because the product is more enjoyable when I have new, relevant content served fresh each day; YouTube does that best when it knows what content you watch and enjoy.

Better Data = Better Personalization

Better data means better personalization, whether that’s in the ads you see or the videos recommended to you. If you’re a business owner, it makes it easier to reach out to the right audience for your brand and to understand who your customers are.

Whilst Google collects a lot of data about you, and benefits from the user profiles it creates about you to sell digital ad space and demographic data, it has a business incentive to maintain your privacy and to stay compliant with regulations that protect consumers.

Everything You Need To Know About Google Data

Person looking over graphs and data

Many companies use data collection and analysis to better understand their consumers and how to improve their products and services, and Google is no different. Google collects data for many reasons that benefit its users, as well as business owners. Whether you’re trying to understand more about Google’s data collection or you’re trying to use that data to benefit your business, it’s important to know what data Google collects and how it uses that information. In this guide, we discuss:

  • What Is Google Data?
  • What Data Does Google Collect About Its Users?
  • How To Access Your Google Data
  • What Does Google Do With Your Data?
  • Is Google’s Data Collection Dangerous?
  • How To Turn Off Google Data Collection and Delete It
  • Are There Benefits To Google’s Data Collection?

What Is Google Data?

Google data is the information the company collects about its users. It collects this data through its apps, browsers, and devices to better understand how people behave and what interests them. Google then uses this information to improve the functionality of its apps, personalize and target its advertisements, and continue to develop its search algorithm.

Though the data it tracks is fairly thorough and extensive, Google provides users with information on how to pause the collection and even delete any data that Google has on them. The company also outlines exactly what data it collects and how it’s used in its Privacy Policy.

What Data Does Google Collect About Its Users?

Google collects an extensive amount of data on its users and stores that information for later use and analysis. The company breaks down that collected data into three primary subjects:

Google Apps and Devices

Foremost, if you use any of Google’s apps or devices, including its browser, Chrome, you are giving the company information, even unintentionally. Those apps can include:

  • YouTube
  • Gmail
  • Google Search
  • Calendar
  • Drive
  • Maps
  • Assistant
  • News
  • Ads
  • Google Pay

These apps give the company information, such as what type of device you’re using, the operating system, and what mobile network your phone is using. They can also collect information on the applications or devices you use to access Google’s apps or pair with them. This includes information like your IP address and system activity.

If you fill out any personal information on these apps, like your name, phone number, credit card number, or address, Google collects that as well. It even collects and stores the content you create, such as the videos you upload, emails you write, or documents you develop on Google Drive.

Location Tracking

Some Google apps and devices might use location tracking when open, or even in the background when the app is closed. Most often, applications like Google Maps or Google Search use this form of data collection to display relevant or local search results to people and provide directions to places in their area.

Web Activity

Google keeps track of every activity you perform on their apps, devices, and browsers while searching and using the internet. Whenever you watch a video, conduct a search, interact with ads or content, and make a purchase, Google collects and stores that information. Google Chrome also manages and keeps track of your search history, which can inform them about the sites you visit and how long you’re on each one.

How To Access Your Google Data

Here’s a list of steps to help you access the data Google’s gathered on your account:

1. Log In To Your Google Account Page

First, go to your Google account page and log in with your Google information. Once you’re logged in, the homepage looks like this:

Screenshot of Google Account main page

Seeing this page lets you know you’ve logged in successfully and that you’re going to view the information for the correct account.

2. Choose the Correct Menu Option

From the menu bar on the left side of the screen, click on “Data & privacy.” This section of your account provides options about your privacy through the service. It’s where Google stores options about your data collection and usage.

3. View Your Activity, Timeline, and Watch History

On the “Data & privacy” page, scroll down to the section labeled “History settings.”

Here you can see the three primary sources of data collection that Google stores:

  • My Activity: The actions and activities you perform on Google’s browsers and applications
  • Maps Timeline: Location history of places you’ve been and things you’ve searched on Google Maps
  • YouTube watch & search history: The actions you perform on YouTube’s search engine and the videos you choose to watch

Google displays a link to each of these sources at the bottom of your history settings. Clicking on any of them brings you to the same page that lists your history and web activity in greater detail.

4. Review Your App and Service Data

If you scroll down a little further on the “Data & privacy” page, you can find the section titled “Data from apps and services you use.”

In this section, you can review content that Google collects about the applications you use and how you use them. There are two main areas of this section to explore:

  • Content saved from Google services: This allows you to see all the data that Google’s accumulated on its apps or services that you use. For instance, if you use Gmail, it can tell you how many emails you’ve recently sent, the ones currently in your inbox, and the emails in your trash.
  • Third-party apps with account access: This shows you all the third-party apps that currently have access to certain parts of your Google data. Most likely, you’ve given these apps permission to do this, but if you haven’t, it’s helpful to remove them right away.

If you want to remove a third-party app from the latter section, simply click on the app you want to remove. This will bring up more information about what the app can access, as well as a button that says “Remove Access.”

Clicking on this button will revoke the app’s access to your data. If you don’t recall giving one of these apps your permission, you can also report them by following the presented “Report This App” link at the bottom.

What Does Google Do With Your Data?

Google uses your data to give people better experiences with its apps. It also uses the data to determine what areas of its services or products it needs to update to improve its customer satisfaction. Google applies your data to its products and services in a few different ways, including:

Targeted Advertising

One of the main reasons Google collects and stores your data is to create targeted advertisements that interest you. The information it stores and uses includes your:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Career
  • Location
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Recent searches

Google might show you some of these targeted advertisements on its search engine results page ( SERP ) or on other websites that you visit. Google might also give this information to other companies and businesses so they can better understand who’s most likely to buy their products and services. Then, those companies can also develop advertisements that interest you to attract you to their website and brand.

Improved Search Results

When using some of Google’s apps and services, like its search engine or maps app, it might use location tracking to uncover more relevant search results. For example, if you search “restaurants in my area” but Google doesn’t know where you are, it might not provide the best or most accurate information. Using your location data, Google can give you more accurate search results and provide you with a better user experience.

Algorithm and Ranking Updates

To ensure its search engine is accurate and helpful, Google uses people’s data to improve its search algorithms and deliver quality results. For instance, let’s say many people click a link on the SERP , but don’t stay on the webpage for very long. That will increase the web page’s bounce rate, which Google can note. Seeing that the bounce rate is high, Google might realize the page isn’t answering the search query and lower its ranking. (Note that sometimes a high bounce rate isn’t bad. It may just mean that the visitor found exactly what they were looking for quickly.)

If Google notices major issues with its search engine based on user data, it might also create an algorithm update to fix any problems and ensure everything is running smoothly.

Understanding Trends

Google uses your data and the searches you make to understand trends and deliver insightful information about what’s currently popular. It compiles all of this information on the website, Google Trends. Here, people can look up different search queries and keywords to see their current popularity. They can also see which topics are currently trending. Though this information is interesting for a lot of reasons, it’s most helpful to companies and brands who perform content marketing. Understanding current trends allows businesses to create content people are searching for, so they can attract more people to their site.

Trying to find the best keywords to target for your content marketing campaign? Request a free content marketing analysis from CopyPress today! Our analysis tool can help you find gaps in your marketing strategy and see how your brand currently ranks against its top three competitors.

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Better Usability

After Google collects and analyzes your data, it often uses it to improve its apps and services. That’s because the data can inform Google about problems with its applications. It can also help improve usability through data by generating other types of useful information. For instance, Google Search has a feature that informs people how busy a restaurant or business is during certain hours of the day. Using data, such as location tracking, Google can determine how many people are at a business at one given time. They can then relay this helpful information to searchers.

Is Google’s Data Collection Dangerous?

It’s understandable that Google’s collection of data may scare people or make them hesitant to use the service. After all, it’s a little uneasy to read through everything the company collects on us. But Google is also very open about the information it retrieves and how the company uses it. That’s why Google makes the data so accessible and customizable through your account page.

Some people also worry if Google sells the personal data that it captures to other organizations. The company does not directly sell your information to people or businesses, like your address, phone number, or credit card number. However, Google gives information and data to advertisers and businesses, but it always remains anonymous. Google doesn’t say, “Hey! Frank in Florida just searched for your business online. Here’s his phone number. Call him.” Instead, it delivers general information to a business about its website visitors, what type of people view its webpage, and the general demographic of its target audience.

How To Turn Off Google Data Collection and Delete It

It’s never a simple thing to accept when a large tech company collects your information and shares it with other companies or businesses. Though not inherently dangerous, if you’re uneasy about Google taking, holding, or sharing your information, it provides ways for you to turn off its data collection. Here’s a list of steps to help you delete any data Google’s collected about you and turn off any further data collection:

1. Login To Your Google Account Page

Just like in the previous how-to section, go to your Google account page and log in with your credentials. Then, navigate to the “Data & privacy” section displayed on the left-hand menu. From there, scroll down to the “History settings” section on the webpage.

2. Turn Off Data Tracking and Collection

Under “History settings”, click on “Web & App Activity.” This will open a webpage that allows you to turn off Google’s data tracking for the websites and applications you use. Simply click “Turn Off.”

Google then presents you with another pop-up window. Read through the information on the screen. Then, when you’re ready, click “Pause.”

Finally, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Manage all Web & App Activity.” This opens a webpage that allows you to delete any existing data Google currently has on your web and application history. Scroll down until you reach the top of your web and app activity summary. To the right, click on “Delete.”

A window appears that allows you to choose the timeframe of data you’d like to delete. If you want to remove all of your data, click “All time” and confirm the request.

Once you’ve finished deleting all the data from your web and app activity, go back to your “History settings” on your “Data & privacy” page. Under “Web & App Activity” are two more options: “Location History” and “YouTube History.” Follow the same steps as above to turn off tracking for these last two options and delete the data Google’s collected on you.

3. Turn Off Ad Personalization

After you turn off all data tracking and delete your information, go back to the main “Data & privacy” page. Then, scroll down past the “History settings” until you reach the box titled “Ad settings.” Clicking on this box brings you to a webpage that shows you all the data Google’s collected about you as a consumer. This includes your age, gender, and interests.

Google uses this information to display more relevant advertisements to you on its search engine and other services. Turning ad personalization off will stop Google from using this data to display advertisements. However, it won’t necessarily delete the information or stop Google from collecting it. But it will stop Google from using the data with its services and targeting you with specific ads.

Are There Benefits To Google’s Data Collection?

There are a few benefits to Google’s data collection, which include:

User Benefits

The major benefits that Google’s data collection gives to people are through how the company uses it for personalization, as listed above. Creating more personalized ads, improving usability, and displaying more relevant search results allows people to have a better experience with Google and the products and services it offers.

Though the collection might seem invasive, it’s all geared at providing people with a more customized and tailored experience. Do you want to know how busy your favorite restaurant is? Do you want to see how long it will take to get downtown? Maybe you want to know when your favorite brand puts its products on sale? Allowing Google to understand you and your preferences allows it to display this information and improve how you use its features.

Business Owner Benefits

Google also helps business owners improve their marketing efforts by sharing information about their consumers and current online trends. This allows businesses to attract their target audience more effectively. That’s because Google uses the data it collects in services like Google Analytics, Ads, and Trends, which companies can use and explore to create better advertisements and marketing materials. For example, if a business wants to figure out if its content is improving its conversion rate, it can use Google Analytics to see how long visitors stay on its webpage and if they navigate to another area of the website.

If Google notices people stay on the webpage for a while but then leave, companies may want to place more effective calls to action on the page. Trying to understand the data Google’s giving you and how it can improve your content marketing campaign? CopyPress has a team of experts who can decipher Google’s data and help you put it to good use. Schedule a free call with us today to improve your content and boost your marketing efforts.

Understanding the data that Google collects and gives to businesses can help you manage your privacy more efficiently. It can also help you improve the marketing efforts of your business by creating more effective advertisements and marketing materials. This can allow you to attract your target audience, improve your conversion rate, and hopefully increase your sales at the same time.