What do you know about Google

The information portal for safe cell phone use

The Google search engine is available as an app for Android and iOS. It is preinstalled on most Android devices and fixed as a search bar on the home screen.

In addition, Google is the default search engine in many browser apps. To ensure that this is the case, Google pays other browser providers such as Apple (Safari) and Mozilla (Firefox) a lot of money.

As a result, Google search has a dominant position in the market. According to current estimates, it is used by more than 90 percent of all smartphone users. Like the navigation app Google Maps, the email service Gmail and the video platform YouTube, it belongs to the company Google LLC.

Because it can be linked to other Google services, Google search is extremely convenient to use. It can be integrated into the Google keyboard Gboard, for example, and is linked to Google's voice assistant if you have activated it.

This is how Google search works

Google's search is known for tailor-made search results - and for displaying tailor-made advertising. As one of the first major search engine providers, Google can access a search index that has been developed over many years and has the financial and human resources to continuously improve it.

Google does not only collect data from the search when submitting a search query. Entered search terms are sent to Google's server and analyzed beforehand so that suitable search suggestions can be displayed. The search suggestions are based on general search probabilities and personal preferences.

On Android devices, in the standard settings, Google has access to a large amount of personal information that goes far beyond the search terms entered. Via the linked Google account and other pre-installed Google apps, data can be collected and user preferences can be derived.

That says Google's privacy policy

Which data the Google search can include for search results and advertisements can be found in Google's general privacy policy. It applies to all Google services - whoever uses them automatically agrees to it.

The group reserves the right to save all data from the use of its services and to merge it with the data from the use of other Google services and to share it with its subsidiaries. There are also advertising and marketing firms among them.

Specifically, this means that if you use Google search for your job search or research on medication, you can potentially provide an entire network of services and companies with an insight into your life situation.

On Android devices, the data can also be linked to your Google account. This is also possible on iPhones as soon as you use a Google account (if you have a Gmail address, you also have a Google account). If you have given your name there, the information collected can be directly linked to your person.

Usage data from many sources

The preferences used for search results can be derived from YouTube videos, searched locations from Google Maps and online purchases with Google Pay, for example. Anyone who has activated Google location services in their Google account also permanently informs the company of their location. It can happen that your Google hits relate exactly to your place of residence - including ads.

Your interaction with the search results can then be passed on to other Google services. Perhaps a documentary about the Wadden Sea will be suggested to you on YouTube, because you previously searched for German holiday destinations in Google or viewed the route to a place in northern Germany on Google Maps.

This creates detailed profiles of the habits of users. If you use Google apps in the standard settings, you lose control of your own data due to the close connection between the Android system and Google and the cross-app data transfer.

You can do that

When asked about data collection, Google usually responds by referring to options. In fact, on Android devices, you can restrict the flow of data to Google. The two most important points can be found under.

Here you can object to the storage of usage data in your Google account. In addition, you can view previously saved data and delete it manually or specify that it should be deleted automatically. The same goes for the and.

Since mid-2020, Google has been deleting its users' web and app activities automatically after 18 months and the YouTube history after 36 months. However, this apparently only applies to users who have suspended their web & app activities since an update in 2019. It is definitely worth taking a look at the settings.

You will find the field further down in the menu. To change the settings, tap the field. In the following menu you can deselect personalized advertising.

To use the Google search without the data stored in the Google account, you can tap on the profile point (with photo or initials) in the Google search and select the option. Since March 2020, the item that is supposed to fulfill the same function has also been available in this menu on some devices.

All of the setting options mentioned are also available to iOS users with a Google account. Instead of directly in the device settings, they can be adjusted by calling up the Google account in the browser.

Note: Google reserves the right to save usage data from search and other apps even if no Google account is linked. This also applies if you have taken all of the precautionary measures described above. How and where Google stores this data is unclear.

We recommend these alternatives

There are alternative search engines that respect your privacy. Our tips:

Startpage.com

  • The Startpage search engine uses Google's search index, but does not transmit any data to Google.
  • It is financed through non-personalized advertising.
  • Since October 2019 it has partly been owned by an American investor. In our interview, Jörg Bauer from Startpage assures: We do not save anything about the searchers.

DuckDuckGo

  • The search engine DuckDuckGo works independently of Google and relies on the search lists of other providers. At the same time, it is building its own search index.
  • DuckDuckGo is funded by non-personalized advertising.
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