If You Think Facebook Collects Too Much Personal Data, Imagine What Google Knows

The world is up in arms its seems of late, over the amount of data that social media websites like Facebook track and accumulate on their users. This came to the forefront with the Cambridge Analytica fiasco that Facebook has been in hot water over for months. With so much focus on Facebook, many have begun to wonder what other websites and services millions of internet users visit every day are collecting hordes of data on us. Google, however, with its far-reaching web data harvesting powers may be even more responsible for hoarding information on its users.

google data storage

British web tabloid The Sun has an interesting report that looks at how much data Google collects on users each year. According to that report in a single year, the company stores enough browsing data to fill 569,555 pages of A4 paper. That is enough paper if stacked vertically to reach 189-feet high.

That personal information comes from the widely used and massive number of Google-owned properties, in addition to its search engine, like Google Maps, Gmail, and YouTube. The report claims that Google knows everything about users from what time they leave for work, to what time they get home, to where they go and what sort of transportation methods they use each day.

Each user of Google has about 23,731 pages of data collected on them in about two weeks says the report. The data that Google collects is used in part for targeting relevant ads based on products they might have searched for and other personalized but not directly user-identifiable data. The report notes commentary from a web developer by the name of Dylan Curran who had requested the data that Google had collected on him. Curran says he was shocked to find that Google even had a list of websites he had visited when using incognito mode on Chrome.

Curran also notes that the data included every photo he had ever taken with his phone and documents he had deleted from the Google cloud storage service, including his old resume. Estimates claim that 2.8% of the world's storage capacity is used to keep all the data on Google users. Some in the industry are also calling for Google to pay users for their personal data.

Google defends its data collection practices of course, with a spokesman noting, "The privacy and security of our users is of the utmost importance, which is why we have spent years making available tools like My Account, so people can understand and control their Google data and make the privacy choices that are right for them. We encourage everyone to review My Account regularly, and 3.8 million people did in the UK in the last year. Your data makes things like Google Maps work better and more effectively, by helping to do things like recognising traffic patterns and help you find the quickest way home."

Android devices have been accused of sending data to Google no matter what the privacy settings of the user. In addition, thousands of Android apps aimed at kids are also accused of tracking children improperly. This likely just the beginning of our new awakening to the topics of user data, privacy and best practices.