IT for Donuts: find out what Google thinks about you

By: John McGarvey

Date: 26 January 2015

IT for Donuts is our regular feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

Today, we explain how to find out what sort of data Google is collecting on you, in order to show targeted advertising.

Your Google profile

You might not realise it, but if you browse the internet while you’re signed into Google, the search engine is using information about the sites you visit to create a profile of you.

It does this by tracking your visits to websites that are part of Google’s ad network. This includes any website that shows Google AdSense or banner adverts, such as those in the screenshot above.

This information is used to show you adverts that Google thinks you’ll be interested in.

See your Google advertising profile

If you’re intrigued about the profile Google has built up, you can view this easily when you’re signed in to Google:

  • Go to the Google home page (make sure you’re signed in).
  • At the top right of the screen, choose the small down arrow beside your Google username.
  • Select Account.
  • From the tabs at the top of the screen, choose Account history.
  • Scroll down to the Related settings
  • You’ll see a label for Ads. Next to this, choose Edit settings.
  • The page that appears will tell you what Google thinks it knows about you.

What information does Google build up?

The screen you see will show two columns. The first will show you what Google thinks it knows about you based on your use of Google services.

The second column shows you what information Google has built up as you’ve visited other websites showing Google ads.

This profile includes your:

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Languages
  • Interests

You can use this page to edit these items (so you see more relevant ads).

Alternatively, if you’re worried about how Google uses this data, you can also choose to opt-out of interest-based ads. If you do this, you’ll see generic ads instead of targeted ones.

If – like most web users – Google is the first place you turn to find information, it’s worth checking out this profile page.

It provides an interesting insight into what sort of data the web giant holds about its users. And it’s a good illustration of how we pay for these ‘free’ services with data like this.

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