Are you aware how much Google knows about you?

I like to think I’m quite technology minded.  I know that Google scans my inbox for spam/security and for advertising purposes.  I’ve opted to let Google keep a record of my internet searches in their web search history (note to the paranoid – they have this information anyway and could hand it over to the security services if required).  I know that Google Now looks for ways it can help me based on my web surfing – for example surf for a place on my computer and my phone offers me directions and journey times without being asked.

I’ve opted to give up a certain amount of privacy in order to get maximum benefit from the other services Google offer – I’m fine with that.  You can see what information Google holds about you by looking in your Google account under the account history tab.  You can see the sort of information they keep below:

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You can glean some interesting facts from these options, for example I search Google more on a Sunday…

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I was a little surprised by how much information they hold about my location.  I check into public facing services like Facebook but hadn’t given a thought to the fact that my phone checks my location several times a day and that Google actively stores your location on their servers.  Have a look and see where you have been over the last thirty days – it certainly opened my eyes.  This is where Google has tracked me over the last month.

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I won’t be changing the way I use Google or starting to wear a tinfoil hat but I do think that as a user you should be aware what information Google holds about you.

 

Disclaimer – I’m sure the same is true of Bing and other internet services to a certain extent, but as I don’t use them as much as Google, they won’t hold as much information on me.

Come on Google – tidy up your Gmail interface

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I’ve been a user of Gmail (as part of Google Apps) for about 3 years now, preferring to use the web interface over an offline email reader.  I’ve seen plenty of innovation over that time, and I’ve seen Google invest a serious amount of time and effort into tempting enterprise users onto the Gmail platform.I’ve maintained an ordinary Gmail account for the same amount of time, using it mainly to access other Google services like YouTube, Analytics and Webmaster tools.  Last week I had cause to upgrade my storage so I could upload lots of photos.   I had considered moving back to ‘standard’ Gmail to use the extra storage space I had paid for – Google will not be allowing users of the standard edition of Google Apps to buy more space, although most of the other features of a Google account will be available to Google Apps users when the full-account programme (for which I am a trusted tester) is rolled out later this year.Whilst a rather minor problem, I soon became irritated by the presence of the ‘Invite a friend’ box and the constant invitations to invite my friends to Gmail after sending each of them an email.  It is also extremely annoying to still have to suffer adverts next to my email after paying them for extra space.  After sending several emails a day these annoy me more and more until I return to my Google Apps account with its cleaner more professional interface.For once Google could take a leaf out of the new-improved Microsoft.  Microsoft lets paying customers suppress adverts (which I know you could also do with an add blocking browser extension).  Microsoft is also removing the signature line advertising that the email has been sent from hotmail.  They seem to appreciate that most people want a professional interface/experience and have taken steps to implement this.I’m surprised that Google has left these in given the wealth of minor interface improvements made since Gmail came out of beta.  Google – follow Microsoft’s lead.  Remove adverts for paying customers, and remove the ‘invite a friend’ features that detract from the Gmail experience.

It’s always good to know someone reads your blog posts

My friends ask me why I blog, and why I make the time for blogging.  Sometimes I wonder myself why I blog.  I’ve posted blog posts that have hundreds of hits, and ones that hardly register.  Sometimes I get an email or message about a blog post, but usually I don’t.   I carry on blogging, even when I don’t get any feedback, because I know somebody, somewhere will read what I have to say.This is a collection of extracts from my logs over the last few months showing some of the more interesting visitors to my site (I’ve removed the IP addresses myself).  The bottom image shows visits from Microsoft and Google following an Outlook web access vs Google rant I had (#GoneGoogle).

Google DNS

I recently read about the launch of Google DNS.  I don’t use my ISP’s DNS servers, I use OpenDNS and have always thought my service felt nippier.  However without any method of testing any test is subjective and lacks any scientific rigor.

I found out about Steve Gibson’s DNS benchmarking software and carried out a couple of tests earlier tonight. It seems that Google DNS isn’t quite as fast as they would have you believe, although it could be network location dependent.  I’ll carry on using OpenDNS as I like the security and other features that they offer, but it could certainly be worth keeping an eye on.

VirginMedia have already outsourced their email to Google.  Perhaps one day Google will provide their DNS services as well!

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