Google has a new Privacy Checkup wizard which lets you check just how much data you share with the search giant. Here are the key settings you should review using the tool to ensure you maintain your privacy.
If you're signed in to your Google account, you can access the checkup by going to https://myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup. The checkup runs through five key areas. Here's what to check in each of them.
1. Google+ profile information The odds are good you're not actually using Google+, and given that you may well want to untick everything in the first section ('Show these profile tabs to visitors). For maximum privacy, make sure that you have ticked 'Don’t feature my publicly shared Google+ photos as background images on Google products & services' and that you have not ticked 'Find my face in photos and videos and prompt people I know to tag me'. (Side note: any system where a tick sometimes means "Keep my data private" and sometimes means "Share my data" is not actually optimised for privacy.)
Sneakily, Google has buried its "shared endorsements" setting — which is just a fancy label for "we can use stuff you say in advertisements" in a pop-up, rather than letting you change it directly on the page. Click on 'Edit your shared endorsements setting' and make sure 'Based upon my activity, Google may show my profile name, profile photo, and activity in shared endorsements that appear in ads' is not selected. (This should be switched off by default, but it pays to check.)
2. Help people connect with you This option lets people who know your phone number search for you on other Google services. I chose not to enable this.
3. Manage what you share on YouTube Under 'Likes and subscriptions', you can tick boxes to keep all liked videos, subscriptions and playlists private — so tick both of these for maximum privacy. Under 'Your YouTube activity feed', you can tick boxes to share whenever you like a video, add to a playlist or subscribe to a channel— so don't tick any of these for maximum privacy. (Again with the inconsistency!)
4. Personalise your Google experience There are six areas where Google can track your activity when you are logged in: web and app activity, location history, YouTube search history, YouTube viewing history, device information and voice activity. For maximum privacy, you would want to disable all of these — though there will be a trade-off in convenience.
5. Make ads more relevant to you This section lets you customise the kind of ads that Google shows you by specifying your age, gender and interests, and by blocking specific advertisers. If you don't want to see ads that are customised based on your search history on Google or other sites, you can choose to opt out of these. Note that this won't eliminate ads, and that you'll also lose the option to block specific advertisers.