How Can I Find Out What Google And The Rest Of The Web Knows About Me?

Online privacy is a topic that has been important to many people for some time. Reading the Twitter stream, it seems that privacy issues tend to crop up more often than not in relation to social networking sites. Historically that has primarily meant Facebook but now Google is making a decent effort at their own social site; Google+

From what I’ve read and heard it seems that the majority of people like what they have found with Google+ so far in terms of how it functions as a social networking site. The one big area of concern, however, is the fact that the search engine seems quite insistent that users of the service use their real names when signing up. There have even been cases of people getting kicked for using false names.

Now you may argue that linking your real name to a Google+ profile is no big deal as most of us have nothing to hide. I can understand that point but have reservations of my own. The reason why is that I myself have had a ‘stalker’ from my life away from the web – this person has admitted searching for my house on Google maps and was even able to tell me my door number. They are keen to find out as much as possible about me from the web. That is why I have always tended to use a different surname on the internet, only giving my real surname to trusted companies and individuals.

Therefore I’m none too keen on using Google+ right now because of the fact that my real name is required. But how much does Google already know about me? And how much of that information is available to searchers of their services?

Google Account Dashboard

Google Account Dashboard

This is where the Google Account Dashboard comes in.

Signing in with your email address and password opens up the page for your account.

Google have added a personal security section to this page. Called, “Me on the web”, which shows just how much information about you there may be on the internet. And theĀ amount of information about you could be huge. I was surprised just how much Google knows about me, including:

  • my full name
  • my home address
  • my blogger account and everywhere I’ve posted with it
  • all the websites I have and have had
  • the date of the next parents’ evening at my son’s college
  • my credit card details!
  • some of the things I’ve bought online
  • a draft post for this site that I had no idea was online
  • my latest searches categorised by web, images, news, products, videos, maps and blogs
  • and various other obvious details such as Gmail contacts and conversations

Me on the web

Me on the web
There is a direct link to Google Alerts which is a handy tool that can be used for many things, including receiving notification when someone mentions your name, email address of web site anywhere on the web. Me on the web even makes suggestions as to which terms you may want to monitor.
There are also quick links to more information on how to manage your online identity, including how you may be able to remove unwanted web pages from Google’s own search results.
Managing your online identity is getting harder and harder. There are legitimate reasons why some people wish to remain anonymous online both in terms of their safety and also as a means of avoiding the constant monetisation of personal information.
Google’s ‘Me on the web’ can help you understand how much of your information is already on the web and offers a little help in managing it.
About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

Comments

  1. Good article Lee an i have shared it in a few places

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