Google, among other internet giants, has frequently been caught in the crosshairs when it comes to the controversial topic of privacy of user data.
Steps Taken Towards Greater Privacy
It made several attempts to ease those concerns by implementing settings through which users can turn off location and internet histories.
Android users have also been empowered to anonymise their data and prevent companies from accessing it, promised an end to third party cookie tracking, and even introduced steps such as Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).
In order to address the same along with accusations leveled their way, Google has posted a blog which answers some FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).
Is Google Assistant recording everything I say?
No. The feature is designed to wait in standby mode till it’s activated when the user issues a voice command.
While in standby mode, it processes a few seconds of audio in order to detect a command such as “Hey Google” or “Ok Google”.
Users have the option to adjust the sensitivity of the virtual assistant to voice commands via the Google Home app for smart speakers and smart displays.
Other customisable settings include those which turn off cameras and mics, clear visual indicator (like flashing dots on top of your device) signaling when the assistant is activated.
How does Google decide what ads it shows me? How can I control this?
The ads shown to each user is based on their search history including sites visited and ads clicked.
With this data, the ads are personalised so as to be of more use to the person..
However, none of the content present in emails or documents, or sensitive information like health, race, religion or sexual orientation is accessed for this.
There is an Ad Settings page which allows one to disable ads personalization completely.
Are you building a profile of my personal information across your products, for targeting ads?
Personal information of users are not sold to anyone nor advertisers.
Information stored in apps such as Gmail, Drive, Calendar and Photos is never used for advertising purposes.
The only data which power the personalised ads is anonymous and aggregated.
Most of Google’s products can be used completely anonymously without having to log in, such as in incognito mode.
Are you reading my emails to sell ads?
As already mentioned, Google does not access data in emails for ad purposes.
The process of selecting and showing personalized ads in Gmail is fully automated.
The ads are based on activity in other Google services such as YouTube or Search.
Google does not use keywords or messages in your inbox to show you ads – nobody reads your email in order to show you ads.
Furthermore, those using work or school accounts will never be shown ads.
Why do you need location information on Maps?
In order to increase speed of info retrieval and user convenience, the device itself reveals its location instead of the user having to manually input it.
Other uses of location on Maps include info about traffic and its patterns.
Also worth knowing is that location history is off by default.
What information does Google know about me? How do I control it?
A comprehensive summary of the data accumulated from a user is visible in Google Dashboard.
The dashboard also features privacy controls like Activity Controls and Ad Settings to adjust the collection and use of data on or off.
Further info on how Google manages and utilises data and its various efforts at keeping its users safe and secure can be found in the Google Safety Center.