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Silent Spy: How to control your Google footprint

You can control the data that Google collects on you.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A recent court ruling found that tech giant Google had collected children's data without their parents' consent.

The news concerns parents in West Michigan, like Jenny Cole, who wonders how much information Google has on her three children.

"I truthfully never thought about it to be honest and especially with my kids I guess I maybe knew that was happening to me. But I didn't really think about it with my kids that they keep track of all that," said Cole.

Tech expert Justin Ayers from Grand Rapids Tech says all that information gathering is the reason that Google is a multi-billion dollar company.

"Google makes all their money through advertising. At least the vast majority of it....basically they just collect all of your data and target advertising toward your likes and dislikes," said Ayers.

And the information Google gathers on us is not just from what we type into the search engine. It can also come from your use of Gmail, Google Maps and other sources.

All of that data is compiled by Google to create a profile that is very valuable to advertisers.

"They pay a certain amount per click, per conversion," said Ayers.

1. How to access your Google data?

The good news is you have access to your data by visiting takeout.google.com. There you can review, download or delete.  

And if you're a parent who wants to know what Google has on your kid, all you need is their username and password.  

Jenny and her daughter Masyn took a look at their data.

"It literally shows everything you did...look, saved, it shows what you saved," said a stunned Masyn Cole.

2. How to stop Google from gathering your data?

You can also try to avoid being tracked in the first place.

"You can go to myaccount.google.com and go through your privacy settings. They have a function where you can go through what it's tracking, why it's tracking it, you can turn it on and off," said Ayers.

3. Use a different web browser 

Or you could try using a browser besides Google Chrome.

"Mozilla, who owns Firefox, they're not an advertising company so they don't really have a reason to mine your data. You can still use Google search and everything, but it doesn't automatically have you logged in," said Ayers.

4. Use a different search engine

Other search engines like Duck, Duck, Go are also an option.

"You get the power of Google Search but then it doesn't have a way of tracking what you're doing, while you're using it," says Ayers.

Ayers says his biggest advice for parents would be to educate yourself on what data is being collected, and consider whether it's worth turning it off. 

He used location services as an example.

"There's some use to that as a parent right? Google knows where your kids are, but so do you," said Ayers.


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