What Does Google Know About Me? (A Complete Guide)

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While most people only think of Google as a search engine, the truth is it’s the world’s biggest advertising company.

This means it’s in the business of knowing (almost) everything about you so that it can increase its revenue through targeted ads.

I first became interested in online privacy and cybersecurity several years ago.

Since then, I have made a habit of regularly doing deep-dive research on as many branches of these topics as possible – because privacy is every person’s inalienable human right.

You deserve to know what companies like Google know about you, what they’re doing with your personal information, and what you can do about it.

So, I put together this complete guide on Google’s invasion of privacy, condensing years of research (including using the data Google makes public and semi-public) into one easy reference.

Whether you use this guide to minimize Google’s invasion of your privacy or limit it as much as possible is up to you.

Either way, I aim to give you everything you need!

Jump to our infographic for a quick summary of everything Google knows about you!

Who Is Google?

google apps

Our reliance on Google as a search engine is so ingrained into modern culture that “Just Google it” is the way we say “look it up online.”

The now cliché phrase might as well be the tech giant’s slogan.

But Google is far more than a search engine.

Google is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., an American-based multinational technology conglomerate.

As one of the largest companies in the world, Alphabet describes itself on LinkedIn as “a strategic advertising, design and news media agency.”

About 80.3% of Alphabet’s nearly $183 billion revenue for 2020 came from Google Advertising Revenue alone.

The Wall Street Journal called Google “the world’s digital ad leader” in April 2020.

google alphabet revenue
google ad revenue

YouTube is also one of Alphabet’s subsidiaries (after being bought for $1.65 million in 2006) and represents 11% of Google’s net ad revenue in the US.

So it only makes sense that Susan Wojcicki, in whose garage Google was first launched by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998, is now YouTube’s CEO.

This clearly demonstrates that Google is an advertising company.

Google Isn’t Really a SaaS Provider – Because You’re the Product

In online business parlance, Google could easily be described as an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) provider.

But this isn’t entirely accurate because Google doesn’t make money from providing users like you and me with its software solutions.

One of the few exceptions, of course, is YouTube Premium.

Because Google is an advertising company, it makes money by selling ads.

It even has a guide admitting “Google’s main source of revenue is advertising.”

To do so, it needs to build user profiles, which allows it to sell targeted advertising through Google Ads.

Businesses (or the marketing agencies they hire) effectively bid on your data by setting a flexible Google Ads budget.

The more they spend, the better the results, as Google Ads focuses on PPC (pay-per-click) ads.

This means Google is making massive profits by “indirectly” selling your data for advertising.

And its customers use those ads to funnel you to their sales page, where they try convincing you to buy their products or services.

If you make a purchase, they make a profit.

So everyone involved is making money from your personal information… except you because you’re the product.

Are You In a Rush? Check Out This Cheat List!

If you’re in a rush and you want to quickly find out what Google knows about you, use this cheat list to get started:

  • Google Dashboard (the data Google generates from your activity on Google services, such as Gmail, Google Search, Chrome, and YouTube)
  • Google Ads (the data Google collected about you to make personalized ads)
  • Chrome (and Android) Passwords (every single password you’ve ever saved on Google Chrome and/or Android)
  • Location History (any logged locations while using Google devices/services)
  • Web & App Activity (past search terms and overall browsing history)
  • Voice & Audio Activity (all voice commands used for Google devices/services)
  • All of Your Data (all data collected by Google, including bookmarks, contacts, emails, drive files, photos, and more)

But if you want the full story, keep reading!

What Does Google Know About Me (and How)?

Hopefully, you now understand the real question: “How much of my personal information is Google selling?”

The scary thing is, Google knows pretty much everything about you.

It might even know you better than you know yourself.

Personal Info

Your photo, full name, birthday, gender, email address(es), phone number

Your Pictures

Your Google profile pictures, any photos you add to Google Photos (including the Android app), how to recognize you and your friends from those photos

Your Voice

All voice commands given to your Google Assistant, anything said through your microphone when any Google device is open

Your Location

Your home, work, places you visit, travel destinations, reservations, flight plans, exact location (at any point in time)

Your Beliefs

Your religious and political beliefs, including what religion you follow, what church you go to, who you’re most likely to vote for in the next election

Your Discussions

Who you talk to, if that person is saved as a contact, what you talk about, who you visit regularly (including your friends’ addresses)

Your Likes and Dislikes

Your favorite movies, TV shows, actors, music, books, sports figures, the types of DIY/craft projects you enjoy most, any videos you dislike or don’t recommend on YouTube or other Google affiliated sites

Your Online Shopping

Where you shop, what you buy, what you shop the most for, what you’re most likely to buy (or buy again), websites you might like based on your shopping habits

Your Google Chrome Browser

Your account login details (including password), location, browsing history, Gmail contacts and conversations, and more (including everything listed in this table)

But to be more specific here’s an in-depth look at what Google knows about you and how it gathers that information.

1. Personal Info (the Basics)

google personal info

To use Google’s software products – such as Gmail, Google Drive, and YouTube – you have to create a Google Account.

And to do so, you have to give some basic personal info.

This includes:

  • Photo (optional)
  • Full Name
  • Birthday
  • Gender
  • Email Address(es) – including your Primary and (optionally) a Recovery Address
  • Phone Number

On the same page, you can follow the link to your Google Account About Me page.

Here, you choose whether others see your name, profile picture, gender, and birthday.

There’s also an option for your contact info.

However, your Google Account Email is always visible to anyone “when they communicate with you or view content you create in Google services.”

Further down, you have the option of adding “Places, links, and [an] introduction” to your About section, as well as a Work & Education entry.

As you can see below, I left these optional entries completely blank:

about and work & education information on Google

Quick Solution: How to Stop Google From Collecting Your Personal Info?

Here’s how to stop Google from collecting your personal information:

  1. When signing up for a Google account, only share the required information.
  2. Consider using a fake name and birthday.
  3. If possible, use a temporary phone number.
  4. Don’t upload a profile picture or fill out any optional sections (like “About”).
  5. Alternatively, consider using a different service altogether.

ProtonMail is a free, anonymous email service with end-to-end encryption.

It’s also open-source and easy to use.

On the other hand, if you already have a Google account, here’s how you can minimize the information Google knows about you:

  1. Navigate to your Activity controls.
  2. Under Web & App Activity, select Manage activity.
  3. Next to Filter by date & product, select Delete.
  4. Select All time.
  5. Make sure Select All is checked.
  6. Confirm by clicking Delete.
  7. Next, click Saving activity.
  8. Next to Web & App Activity, turn the slider off.

2. What You Look Like

When creating your Google Account, the Profile Picture is optional.

But chances are, you added at least one (more if you changed it over the years) – and it’s impossible to delete.

So without trying, Google knows what you look like.

If you also use Google Photos, the company’s photo-sharing and cloud storage service, it’s even easier.

Android phones even come with the Google Photos app installed for you, and Apple users can download it too.

google photos

Google Photos will automatically backup photos from your computer or smartphone if you use the app.

The service also uses facial recognition and allows you to create “labels” for people in your photos.

This is especially scary because even if you don’t use Google Photos yourself, if a friend does and added a label for you, Google knows what you look like and how to recognize you.

And it doesn’t need your consent to analyze those photos to learn even more about you.

More scary is that Google already won at least one lawsuit over this feature.

The presiding judge ruled that because the plaintiffs couldn’t prove their private data was sold or leaked, there was no evidence of harm.

Here’s the kicker: in 2020, Google Photos incorrectly exported users’ private data to the wrong people!

Quick Solution: How to Stop Google From Recognizing You?

Beyond never taking photos of yourself or letting anyone else do so, there’s only so much you can do to stop Google from recognizing you.

But it’s still worth doing what you can.

Here’s where to start:

  • Don’t use Google Photos. If you currently use it, switch to a different app/service.
  • Ask your friends not to upload your photos anywhere without permission.
  • If you do use Google Photos, don’t upload pictures of yourself or others and don’t use labels.

Piwigo is a privacy-friendly alternative to Google Photos.

It’s also open-source.

You can either self-host it or pay for the cloud-hosted version.

3. What Your Voice Sounds Like

Using Google Assistant is convenient at times.

All you need to do is set up your Google Home or pick up any other Google device you own (such as your Android or Pixel smartphone) and say “Ok, Google” or “Hey, Google” to do… well, almost anything hands-free.

But did you know Google keeps logs of all the voice commands you use?

You can even listen to them by visiting the Voice and Audio section in your Google Account’s My Activity area:

  1. Click Data & personalization.
  1. Under Activity controls, click Web & App Activity.
google data and personalization settings
  1. Click Manage Activity.

If you haven’t “paused” (disabled) Web & App Activity, you’ll see an overwhelming amount of personal data here – including all the voice recordings Google saved.

You’ll also have the option of setting up an auto-delete schedule (default is all data older than 18 months; the shortest option is for data older than three months) or manually deleting your data instead:

What’s even scarier is Google is always listening through your device’s microphone!

Mitchollow tested the popular rumor while live streaming on YouTube and found that it’s entirely true.

He starts by showing viewers a piece of paper with “Dog Toys” written on it.

He plans to talk about dog toys to see if Google shows advertisements for any.

But Mitchollow doesn’t own any dogs, so he checks his browser ads to confirm no dog toy advertisements are showing.

Then, he exits Google Chrome and starts talking about the subject.

“I wanna buy some dog toys for my dog, okay. Cause I love my dog and he deserves all the best toys in the world,” says Mitchollow.

He specifically mentions kongs, plush animals, and the colors black and red.

Watch the video below to see his results:

Quick Solution: How to Stop Google From Recognizing Your Voice?

Here’s how to stop Google from recognizing your voice:

  1. Navigate to your Activity controls.
  2. Under Web & App Activity, select Manage activity.
  3. Next to Filter by date & product, select Delete.
  4. Select All time.
  5. Make sure Select All is checked.
  6. Confirm by clicking Delete.
  7. Next, click Saving activity.
  8. Next to Web & App Activity, turn the slider off.
  9. Or, if you only want your voice recordings to be exempt, uncheck Include audio recordings.

You can achieve the same on Android devices.

For example, here’s how I stopped Google from recognizing my voice on my Samsung Galaxy S9:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Scroll down to Google and tap it.
  3. Under Services, tap Account services.
  4. Select Search, Assistant & Voice.
  5. Tap Voice and then Voice Match.
  6. Across from Hey Google, turn the slider off.
  7. Next, go back to the Settings.
  8. Tap Apps.
  9. Scroll down to Google and tap it.
  10. Select Permissions and then Microphone.
  11. Change it to Deny.

4. Your Location – Home, Work, Places You Visit, and Travel Destinations

google's location history

When it comes to tracking your location, Google arguably does a better job than anyone else.

It doesn’t even have to look you up on Facebook to see where you Check In, because it collects that data itself.

Google’s Privacy Policy reveals:

“Your location can be determined with varying degrees of accuracy by

  • GPS
  • IP address
  • Sensor data from your device
  • Information about things near your device, such as WiFi access points, cell towers, and Bluetooth-enabled devices”

Are you confused about the last bullet?

Google uses a method known as cell tower triangulation to determine your location within a quarter-mile radius.

Google workers admitted (in 2017) that this is done through a network sync system on all Android devices – and there’s no way to opt-out of the feature.

However, you can disable Location History in Web & App Activity (and manage and delete any location data Google already gathered).

You can also disable your Android’s Location setting, as well as revoke or deny location-related app permissions on an app-by-app basis.

Quick Solution: How to Stop Google From Tracking Your Location?

Here’s how to stop Google from knowing your location:

  1. Navigate to your Activity controls.
  2. Under Location History, toggle the slider off.
  3. Next, select Manage activity.
  4. On the bottom left corner, select the red box with [X] Places.
  5. Click the trash icon.

OpenStreetMap is a privacy-friendly alternative to Google Maps, as the (limited) user data it collects isn’t linked to user accounts.

The service is also updated by the same people who use it – including you.

Exact Locations

Google Now, a Google Search Feature that no longer exists (though the functionality is still there in the Google Chrome App), can figure out where you live and where you work in just three days using GPS.

And if you head to Payments & Subscriptions in your Google Account, click Manage Payment Methods > Addresses, you’ll find your “legal address.”

So if you ever provided your home address while creating an account (or purchasing a subscription) through an app in the Google Play Store, it’s automatically saved.

gpay address

Similar to your Google Account profile picture, your address (which for some reason also includes your phone number) cannot be deleted.

The only option you have is to change it.

Of course, it’s even easier for them to pinpoint exact locations if you use Google Maps.

Especially if you save favorite places and give them a private label, such as “Home” or “Work.”

Likewise if you’re using the Waze navigation app, acquired by Google for $966 million in 2013.

Using all of these same methods, Google can also identify other places you often visit, like your favorite shop, restaurants, and even your running route.

And unless you disabled all location tracking features and settings possible (and deleted any stored data from your Google Account), it also knows all of your past travel destinations.

Quick Solution: How to Stop Google From Tracking Your Exact Location?

Stopping Google from knowing your exact location is the same as the Quick Solution above.

Here it is again:

  1. Navigate to your Activity controls.
  2. Under Location History, toggle the slider off.
  3. Next, select Manage activity.
  4. On the bottom left corner, select the red box with [X] Places.
  5. Click the trash icon.

You should also avoid favoriting places you visit – and if your address is recorded in your Google account, consider changing it to a fake address.

Future Travels, Reservations, and Life Plans

It’s not just your previous travels that Google knows about.

If you use the Google Search Engine, then your search history also appears in the Web & App Activity section of your Google Account.

This means Google knows about the destination research you’ve done online, including looking for restaurants, activities, and even accommodation.

If you also used that information to create an itinerary in Google Calendar, Google even knows the exact dates.

And because Google scans Gmail attachments, it also knows your flight details (if you booked tickets online).

It will even automatically add reservations to your Google Calendar for you if you received confirmation via email.

Of course, this also extends to local travels, trips, and reservations.

If you used Google to search for anything online – such as an upcoming movie or Google Maps (or Waze) to plan a travel route – Google knows about it.

The same goes for future life plans, including homeownership, retirement plans, and even parenthood.

And Google uses all this information to target you with ads it believes are most relevant to you.

Quick Solution: How to Delete Your Google Search Engine History?

Deleting your Google search history is easy.

Here’s how:

  1. In Google Chrome, select the three dots in the upper right corner.
  2. Hover over History.
  3. When the menu appears, select History again.
  4. Select Clear browsing data.
  5. Switch over to Advanced.
  6. Make sure the Time range says All time.
  7. Checkmark every option.
  8. Click Clear data.

Additionally, consider switching from Google Chrome to a more privacy-friendly browser, such as Firefox, and using a privacy-friendly search engine, like DuckDuckGo.

Google Chrome

Google is laughing all the way to the bank thanks to Google Chrome being the world’s most popular web browser.

This is because, like most browsers, Google Chrome uses the W3C geolocation API.

While no one other than W3C knows exactly how the API works, we do know it likely uses a combination of:

  • GPS
  • IP Address
  • GSM/CDMA Cell IDs
  • Available WiFi Networks and Their Signal Strength

Even if you disabled the location settings in your Google Account, you still need to do the same in your browser settings.

Quick Solution: How to Stop Google Chrome From Tracking Your Location?

I try using a modified Firefox browser at least half the time (you can learn how to disable Location-Aware Browsing for Firefox here), but here’s how to disable location settings in Google Chrome:

  1. Open the Chrome menu (the three dots in the toolbar, top-right).
  2. Click on Settings to open it.
  1. Under Privacy and Security, open Site Settings.
google privacy and security site settings
  1. Click Location and change it from “Ask before accessing” to “Blocked.”
blocked location permission on google

5. What You Believe (Religion and Politics)

political advertising on Google

Because Google logs your search history (if you’re using the Google Search Engine), it can also figure out your religious and political beliefs.

Ever searched for things like Bible verses, online sermons, or outreach programs online?

Google will assume you’re a Christian.

If you also search for churches in areas you’re visiting, they’ll even know what denomination you belong to.

The same goes for any other religion.

Google can even guess (with scary accuracy) if you’re more spiritual than religious or if you’re an Atheist or Agnostic.

Even if you don’t use Google Chrome or the Google Search Engine, it can still get this information if you watch sermons, readings, or debates on YouTube!

In the same way, Google knows your political stance.

While it might start by making basic assumptions like “if you regularly read Fox News online, you’re probably a Republican,” it can quickly get as accurate as knowing who you’re most likely to vote for in the next election.

This is especially so if you visit your favorite candidate’s website or search for ways to donate to their campaign.

Even without Chrome, the Google Search Engine, and YouTube, the cookie trackers Google has on 75% of the top million websites (and many others besides) will help it piece together this information.

And though Google claims to now ban political ad targeting by affiliation and voter records, it’s still targeting you based on your age, gender, location, and “contextual targeting.”

Contextual targeting is – you guessed it – targeting you based on the websites you visit and the Google Searches you make.

Quick Solution: How to Stop Google From Tracking Your Beliefs?

Stopping Google from tracking your beliefs can be done in several ways.

Here’s a good starting place:

  • Delete your Google search history
  • Switch to a privacy-friendly search engine
  • Change your browser altogether
  • Opt for a YouTube alternative

As mentioned above, Firefox and DuckDuckGo are great alternatives to Google Chrome and the Google search engine.

As for YouTube, NewPipe lets you watch YouTube content without being tracked by Google.

6. Who You Talk To (and What You Talk About)

man working on his laptop

I already mentioned that Google scans Gmail attachments.

While it still reads your emails, Google promised in 2017 to stop using that information for ads.

But Google still knows what you talk about, especially through Gmail.

It also knows who you talk to and whether you saved that person as a Contact.

You can even visit Google Contacts and look at your Frequently Contacted list.

If you also use Google Hangouts (or the new alternative, Google Meet), the wealth of information Google knows about who your friends (and other online contacts) are and what you talk about gets bigger.

And, of course, if you regularly visit friends, Google can even piece together where they live by cross-referencing communication data with location data.

It can also do this if your friends send you their address (or directions) via any of Google’s products or you save their address to your Google Maps!

Quick Solution: How to Stop Google From Knowing Who You Talk To?

The first thing you need to do is disable access to your location.

This was discussed in Quick Solutions above, but here it is again:

  1. Navigate to your Activity controls.
  2. Under Location History, toggle the slider off.
  3. Next, select Manage activity.
  4. On the bottom left corner, select the red box with [X] Places.
  5. Click the trash icon.
  6. Now, open the Chrome menu (the three dots in the toolbar, top-right).
  1. Click on Settings.
  2. Under Privacy and Security, open Site Settings.
  3. Click Location and change it from Ask before accessing to Blocked.

Next, you need to opt for alternatives to Google services.

This means giving up Gmail, Google Hangouts/Meet, and Google Maps.

The best alternatives to Gmail, Google Hangouts/Meet, and Google Maps are ProtonMail, Signal, and OpenStreetMaps (respectively).

7. Your Likes and Dislikes

Chances are, you’ve used the Google Search Engine to look up things like:

  • Books
  • DIY Projects
  • Games
  • Movies and Series
  • Recipes
  • Sports (including eSports)

Thanks to this data, Google knows what you like.

It can get even deeper.

For example, specific genres, authors, actors, sports figures, and the type of DIY/arts and craft projects you enjoy the most.

And because Google also owns YouTube, any related content you watch (tutorials, reviews, highlights, trailers, etc.) helps it refine its assumptions on your likes even more.

"Google knows you better than you know yourself. But you can change that. The first stepping stone is to stop letting “Just Google it!” rule your life."

Have you ever used the dislike button or clicked on “Not Interested” or “Don’t Recommend Channel” on a YouTube video?

youtube video previews

If so, Google can figure out some of your dislikes too!

Quick Solution: How to Stop Googling From Knowing Your Likes and Dislikes?

This Quick Solution is similar to others – you need to switch to a privacy-friendly search engine (DuckDuckGo) and use a YouTube alternative (NewPipe).

However, you can also turn off YouTube History in your Google settings.

Here’s how:

  1. Navigate to your Activity controls.
  2. Scroll down to YouTube History.
  3. Toggle the slider off.
  4. Select Manage activity.
  5. Next to Filter by date, click Delete.
  6. Click All time.
  7. Confirm by hitting Delete again.

8. Where You Shop Online (and For What)

google shopping

Google Shopping makes it easy to compare prices for an item you want to buy online.

But, just as when using Google search to find items you’re interested in, it also makes it easy for Google to log where you’re shopping online and what you’re shopping for.

Even if you go straight to the website without doing a Google Search, Google’s cookies (including Google Analytics) are waiting there for you.

Most websites use these tools to help them understand how you interact with different pages on their site.

And, of course, Google is keeping records of those interactions as well!

Quick Solution: How to Stop Google From Knowing Where You Shop?

The first step in stopping Google from knowing where you shop is to stop using Google Shopping.

Instead, if you don’t know what website you want to shop on, use DuckDuckGo to search for the product/service and go from there.

The second – and most important – step is to stop Google Analytics from tracking you.

The easiest way to do this is via the extension Opt-Out for Analytics.

9. Everything to Do With Your Browser

google logo

While I covered almost everything to do with your browser already, it’s worth laying it out in a single, easy-reference format too.

After all, the wealth of information Google collects about all of us is astounding.

Take a look:

  • A list of sites you told Chrome not to save login details for
  • Account login details (including usernames) for sites and online platforms you access through Chrome
  • All devices connected to your account
  • All website addresses you manually enter into the URL bar
  • Apps from the Chrome Web Store and Google Play Store
  • Bookmarked pages
  • Browser extensions
  • Browser settings (default and anything you change)
  • Contact details (as given to Google or used on any site with Google Analytics and other Google trackers)
  • Demographics (including race, age, gender, religious beliefs, political alignment, etc.)
  • Documents, Spreadsheets, and Slides made with Google Drive
  • Gmail contacts and conversations
  • Google Account details
  • Full Google Search history (including YouTube search and history)
  • Interactions with ads you’ve seen
  • Likes and Dislikes
  • Locations (Home, Work, regularly visited, travel routes, travel plans)
  • Online shopping behavior
  • Passwords you store in the Google Chrome password manager
  • Photos
  • Tabs you have open in Chrome across all devices
  • Voice recordings

Quick Solution: How to Stop Chrome From Tracking You?

The most foolproof way to stop Chrome from tracking you is to stop using Chrome.

Switch to a browser like Firefox (modified, if possible).

But if you can’t bear to part ways, here’s how to stop Chrome from tracking you:

  1. In Chrome, click the three dots in the upper-right corner.
  2. Open Settings.
  3. Under Privacy and security, click Cookies and other site data.
  4. Next to Send a “Do Not Track” request with your browsing traffic, toggle the slider on.

How Can I Stop Google From Spying on Me?

access denied

The bad news is, the only way to stop Google from spying on you altogether is to go off-grid: no technology and no internet.

But this is rather extreme and not at all practical.

Fortunately, there are also ways to minimize how much Google learns about you.

Here’s a thorough checklist:

1. Use a Privacy-Friendly Browser

One of the easiest changes you can (and should) make is to stop using Google Chrome and start using a privacy-friendly alternative.

I know this is hard – I mentioned earlier I try using a modified version of Mozilla Firefox at least half the time.

Small steps matter.

Of course, the preferable modifications can take a lot of time to get right, and some require going into the about:config settings.

A more practical option for everyday use is GNU IceCat – a version of Firefox already modified for better privacy.

One downside is you need to install some browser extensions if you want YouTube to work.

But you can always use Firefox for streaming and GNU IceCat for everything else!

2. Change Your Search Engine

It doesn’t help having a privacy-friendly browser if you’re still using Google Search Engine.

Most browsers still have Google as the default, but it’s easy to change it.

For example, with Firefox, all you need to do is:

  1. Open the burger menu in the top-right.
  2. Click “Options.”
  1. Open the Search tab on the left.
  1. Under “Default Search Engine,” open the drop-down menu.
firefox default search engine

As shown above, I changed mine to DuckDuckGo.

This is because DuckDuckGo uses Private Search methods by default and blocks all of Google’s trackers for you.

I also disabled the Google Chrome app on my Android phone and replaced it with the DuckDuckGo App.

I especially like the DuckDuckGo app because you can also use it to replace your social media apps by visiting the site and tapping “Add to Home.”

3. Browser Extensions

Several browser extensions help further limit how much Google and other invasive companies and agencies spy on you.

I recommend the following extensions to start with:

  • uBlock Origin – blocks WebRTC leaks, trackers, and many script-based cyber attacks
  • HTTPS Everywhere – forces websites to load only their encrypted HTTPS version and warns you if a site doesn’t offer HTTPS
  • Decentraleyes – protects you from tracking by preventing online search requests from being passed through Google Hosted Libraries and uses local Content Delivery Network instead
  • Cookie AutoDelete – automatically deletes all cookies for you, either when you close the tab (recommended) or only after ending your browser session

If you want to take your privacy to the next level, you can also use:

  • Opt-out for Analytics – prevents Google Analytics and Tag Manager from collecting your website interaction data
  • NetCraft – blocks accidental access to phishing websites, card skimmers, crypto miners, and malicious JavaScript
  • Malwarebytes – the browser extension is available with the free version as well, but for the best protection (including not having any of Google’s adware installed on your device), I recommend the premium version
  • ToS;DR (Terms of Service; Didn’t Read) – gives you a snapshot of any privacy issues hidden in a website’s Terms of Service; you can optionally let the extension give you a notification if there are serious issues, or you can simply click on the Grade widget in the URL bar (see screenshot below showing YouTube as an example)
google chrome extension

4. Use a Password Manager

If you’re using Google Chrome, chances are high you’ve taken the easy route by letting Google Auto-Fill your login details (including your passwords) for everything.

google password manager

Once your new browser is ready to start using, it’s time to change those passwords and get a password manager!

The most secure option is an entirely offline password manager.

In other words, the database is only ever stored on your device and any backup drives made by you (like a USB stick with nothing else on it).

KeePassXC is my password manager of choice for this reason.

It’s also the password manager many cybersecurity experts use.

keepassxc password manager

What’s great about KeePassXC is it has a built-in diceware feature to help you create highly secure passwords.

Or, if you prefer, you can do the same using the Rempe Diceware site.

“Using an offline manager like KeePass gives me full control over the password database,” says Ricky Tan, the host of Cyberspatial.

“And forces me to access it only on devices that I own and trust.”

KeePassXC also has a browser extension, so you won’t need to copy-paste anything.

A major downside is you’re fully responsible for keeping your KeePassXC database safe.

There’s also no native app for smartphones, and it can get pretty complicated trying to import your database into a compatible app.

For most users, cloud-based password managers like BitWarden are more approachable.

But keep in mind you have to pay for it.

Once you finish populating your password manager with the new passwords you’ve set for all of your online accounts, make sure to delete everything in Chrome’s password manager!

5. Replacing Google Services

Now it’s time to start replacing Google services with privacy-friendly alternatives!

Take a look at some of these best-recommended options and decide which of them you’re ready to start using.

Gmail, Calendar, and Contacts

You can replace these Google Services with:

It’s also worth creating different email addresses, which helps minimize the risk of spam caused by data leaks.

Services like AnonAddy (free) and SimpleLogin (paid) help you easily manage multiple email addresses.

YouTube

Admittedly, YouTube is the most difficult of Google’s services to replace.

There are several options available, but none are a complete replacement – especially as many content creators continue to upload to YouTube exclusively.

But it’s worth trying them out nonetheless:

  • DTube – a decentralized video-sharing platform built on blockchain technology, with cryptocurrency support
  • PeerTube – another decentralized, P2P video-sharing platform, though not built on blockchain technology; currently only offers limited content
  • TED – great for educational content, especially in the technology and business industries
  • Twitch – more popular with the gaming community, though there are other content categories available
  • Utreon – one of the best YouTube alternatives, especially as it offers a similar UI (user-interface) and allows YouTube creators to sync their content to avoid uploading twice
  • Vevo – great if all you want to do is watch music videos from the Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group labels
  • Vimeo – best for creatives, with high-quality videos

Not ready to say goodbye to your favorite YouTube content creators who don’t upload anywhere else yet?

Unfortunately, there’s only one way (that I’ve been able to find) that lets you watch YouTube content without being tracked: NewPipe.

It’s also only available for Android users, who will need to download the APK from F-droid.

The good news is you can also use NewPipe with PeerTube, SoundCloud, and Bandcamp.

And if you use an Android Emulator, you can add NewPipe to your computer too!

Google Maps (and Waze)

Unfortunately, there isn’t a good replacement for Waze.

But you can replace Google Maps and some of Waze’s functionality with:

  • Apple Maps – although this stops Google from tracking you, Apple is also terrible for privacy (despite what its advertising would have you believe)
  • Here – owned by car brands like Audi, BMW, and Daimler, Here’s map quality and navigation services are so high that Amazon and Garmin both buy its mapping content
  • OpenStreetMap – although lacking in functionality (compared to the other options), OSM is completely open-source and relies on voluntary uploads by users to keep their map data up-to-date

Google Drive

Syncing your Documents, Slides, and Spreadsheets across all your devices and even inviting others to view, co-author, or edit them is massively convenient.

If you aren’t ready to give up that convenience altogether by sticking to offline documents, there are a few different options available.

These include Resilio Sync (free and paid) and Tresorit (paid only).

But the most secure option is CryptPad, available for free or as a paid service.

cryptpad

CryptPad is an open-source collaboration suite that includes end-to-end encryption!

Google Hangouts and Google Duo

When it comes to messaging apps (for desktop and smartphones alike), there are a few good alternatives to Google Hangouts and Google Duo.

They’ll also help you replace other privacy-killing services like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and WhatsApp!

Here they are:

  • Matrix – a relatively easy-to-use decentralized messaging and VoIP service with end-to-end encryption, though the initial setup process is pretty complicated; there’s also a Matrix client for teams and businesses, called Element – but it isn’t free to use
  • Signal – the most popular secure messaging suite (and the one Edward Snowden recommends) is still free to use and is available for Android, iPhone and iPad, Windows, Mac, and Debian-based Linux distributions
  • Wickr – might be more privacy-friendly than Signal, though it’s not as popular, and you might struggle to convince your contacts to make the switch with you; on the plus side, individuals can use Wickr for free

6. Start Deleting Google’s Data

Before you jump to uninstall Google Chrome, delete as much data from your Google Account as possible first.

Here’s how:

  1. Log into your Google Account.
  2. Open the Data & personalization tab on the left.
  1. Scroll down to Activity controls.
google data and personalization settings
  1. Open Web & App Activity.
  2. Toggle the slider next to “Web & App Activity” to stop Google from continuing to log this information.
  1. Click Manage activity at the bottom of the page.
  1. Open the “Delete” menu beneath the “Search your activity” text box.
  1. Click “All time.”
  1. When prompted on which services to delete activity from, make sure “Select All” is checked.
  1. Confirm you want to delete all of the data by selecting “Delete.”

Repeat the same steps for other entries under “Activity controls,” including “Location History” and “YouTube History.”

Next, disable ads and other Google services:

  1. Lower on the Data & personalization screen, click “Go to ad settings.”
google ad settings
  1. Toggle the slider next to “Ad personalization is ON,” so it changes to “OFF.”
disabled ad personalization on google
  1. Back on Data & personalization, scroll down to “Things you create and do” and click on “Go to Google Dashboard.”
google apps and services
  1. Click on “Delete a service.”
google dashboard
  1. You can optionally “Download your data” if you haven’t already.
  2. Click on “Delete a Google service” and sign in to your Google Account.
delete a google service
  1. Click the trashcan icon next to any Google Services that show up that you don’t plan on using anymore (I temporarily left my YouTube and Gmail intact).
google account services

7. Un-Google Your Android

Before I show you how to un-Google your Android smartphone, it’s worth pointing out that even with Google, Android is a more privacy-friendly and secure smartphone operating system than iOS.

Un-Googling your Android makes it even more so.

This doesn’t mean you should switch from iOS if you’re happy with Apple.

But it’s worth considering if you want to take your online privacy seriously without switching to a Linux phone or using GrapheneOS.

Now, here’s how to un-Google your Android smartphone:

Disable Everything Google

Your first step is to disable everything related to Google.

To get started, open your phone’s Settings and see if it includes a Google entry like this:

If so, you can:

  • Opt-out of Ads Personalization to instruct apps not to use your advertising ID to build profiles or show you personalized ads
  • Turn the Find My Device feature off
  • Disable the Personalize Using Shared Data for all Google apps (those that you decide to keep on your phone)

Next, head to the Apps section to Disable or (if possible) Uninstall all of the Google apps you find there.

Some examples I disabled on my phone because I couldn’t uninstall them include:

  • Chrome
  • Gmail
  • Google
  • Google Play services
  • Google Play Store
  • Google Text-to-Speech Engine
  • Maps
  • YouTube

Add Replacement Apps

Depending on which Google apps you disable or uninstall, you’ll need to install replacements.

But if Google Play Store is one of those, how are you going to install other apps?

There are four options, each with its strengths and weaknesses:

  • 9Apps – the closest true alternative, with most popular apps available
  • Amazon App Store – a close second to 9Apps that even allows you to get most paid apps at a huge discount or for free; the only downside is Amazon isn’t the most privacy-friendly company out there
  • F-Droid – an open-source app store that hosts a lot of the Google alternatives that Google doesn’t want to include in the Play Store
  • APK Downloads – finally, you can install apps directly from your browser (DuckDuckGo is available as an APK and through F-Droid) by downloading their APKs; be extra vigilant by making sure you’re getting the APK from the developer’s official website, though

Struggling to install APK files?

For most Androids, open Settings > Security > enable “Unknown Sources.”

My Samsung Galaxy S9 was a little different: Settings > Biometrics and security > Install unknown apps > DuckDuckGo > Allow from this source.

Don’t forget to disable the setting again when you’re done, just to be safe!

App Alternatives

duck duck go

Ready to start installing app alternatives?

The good news is, we already covered all of them!

Here’s a quick recap (I’ll only mention my preferred alternative, but you can always scroll up to see other options if you prefer):

  • DuckDuckGo – the privacy-friendly search engine’s smartphone browser app replaces Chrome; you can also use it to access your Gmail account and then tap “Add to Home” so you can disable the Gmail app
  • ProtonMail – along with the other Gmail alternatives mentioned earlier, ProtonMail has an email client for smartphones
  • NewPipe – allows you to watch YouTube content without being tracked by Google (can also replace your SoundCloud app); for alternative platforms, you can either download the APK or (if one isn’t available) use the DuckDuckGo “Add to Home” feature
  • OpenStreetMaps – replaces Google Maps and (to a lesser extent) Waze; the APK is an unofficial version, however, so the DuckDuckGo browser option might be safer if you don’t want to use another alternative
  • Signal – the most popular privacy-friendly messaging and VoIP service available replaces Google Hangouts/Meet, Google Duo, and other services like WhatsApp

My preferred replacement for Google Drive is CryptPad, but it doesn’t offer an app due to the immense amount of additional coding required.

Luckily, the site is well-optimized for mobile use!

And for a password manager:

  • If you’re using the offline KeePassXC, import the database to the KeePass2Android app (recommended by KeePassXC)
  • If you’re using a cloud-based password manager like BitWarden, install its APK

8. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are one of the best privacy tools available today – especially when used with all of the tips already covered in this guide!

A VPN won’t stop Google (or the websites you visit) from accessing all of your data.

But it will mask your IP address, add an extra layer of encryption over what HTTPS provides, and keep your browsing history hidden from your ISP and anyone else trying to snoop on your online activities (like your government).

There are many VPN providers on the market, and no single VPN is the best for everyone.

But some are far better than others!

I find NordVPN works best for me (though you can also check out these alternatives).

I especially like NordVPN because it offers the industry’s best security and privacy features – including obfuscated servers, a double VPN, and an anti-malware and ads feature.

If you want to get started with NordVPN, use this link to sign up – it includes a MASSIVE discount!

The provider also has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can change your mind without losing money.

So: What Does Google Know About Me? (Conclusion)

Although Google makes life easier for us in many ways, there’s a pretty significant price to pay: your privacy.

There’s no escaping that if you use its services for any amount of time, Google knows pretty much everything about you.

But it is possible to take control of your privacy by deleting your Google Account data and replacing its services with privacy-friendly alternatives.

It can take some getting used to, but small steps matter, and so far, I’ve found you don’t have to sacrifice much in the way of convenience to live almost Google-free!

Sadly, too few people are aware of these facts.

Help us change that by sharing this guide with your friends and family!

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Bram Jansen
Bram Jansen
I'm Bram Jansen, a leading expert in the realm of cyberspace, ever since I was little, books like Neuromancer and The Foundation always fascinated me, this fiction of a world that isn't simply based within the real world. As I started growing up, I started gaining interest in how I could manipulate this cyberspace that's available in the real world, so I picked a career that I knew was right for me.

The Big Brother Is Watching You .

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