What does Google actually know about you? It turns out that it is not that hard to view, download, and analyze much of the data that Google has on you, and make changes to what is being tracked.
To begin, visit the Google account dashboard at https://myaccount.google.com/dashboard
Once logged in, you are presented with a number of cards, each representing a Google service that you may have data on.
Each card presents a count or piece of information about the service and the data you are storing on it. Expanding the card will show more information about what you are storing there. There is a link at the bottom of each expanded card to go to that service directly, where you can view, modify or delete your information from that service.
It is well worth working through these cards one by one, deleting old data you don’t need, and maybe recovering some memories by finding files or photos you’ve forgotten about on a service you don’t use anymore.
For maximum privacy, scroll down to the “Your activity data” section and set all the services to “paused”.
Note that there are many cards here that have very detailed on you, from every search term you’ve entered in google search, to every video you ever watched on youtube. But one of the more interesting ones is the “Location History” card.
As of the time of this writing, clicking “go to your timeline” produces an error. However, clicking the “three dots” menu and selecting “download data” works.
The data is downloaded in JSON format by default, but you can also download the data in KML format, which allows you to make a map out of it in Google Earth or other mapping applications. In my case there were over 122,000 points of location data from years ago, presumably around the time I owned an android phone. The movement data is very creepy when you view it over time. Or perhaps it is very enlightening to understand and quantify yourself and your history. But that should be for you to decide and limit/delete as you desire.
This is not a google-is-bad article, just an attempt to give you, the reader, a better understanding of what personal data is being stored where, and allow you to make informed decisions going forward.