What Does Google Know About You?

By: Chris VanAernam, Senior Forensic Consultant

You may not realize it and it is especially true if you use an Android device, but Google is constantly collecting data about your actions and location. From your morning commute to your afternoon run and that time you asked Google how to make the perfect steak the company is recording what you say and do. Even if you don’t have an Android device, if you have a Google account and use Google products and services such as Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Assistant, etc. then Google is collecting data about you. Businesses who are trying to make a mark online will do a similar data collection process through resources such as private proxies so they remain secure and private whilst gatheing.

Luckily Google makes it easy to get an export of the data it has collected on you via their data request tool called Google Takeout (https://takeout.google.com) . The list of data categories that can be retrieved from Google Takeout currently has 53 items, although that does not mean you have data in every single category. Some non-standard data a normal investigation may not think about, but Google keeps track of are:

  • My Activity – includes Google Assistant recordings, Android App activity (dates/times), Gmail, Chrome, all Google services generally included here.
  • Purchases & Reservations
  • Location History
  • Maps
  • Notes (Keep App)
  • Fit Data (Health and Fitness App)

These data categories can contain information about an individual’s location, what they’ve said to their phone, when they used a certain app and their workout data. This type of information could be critical in a case where location and date/time of an individual plays a key role in the case. This data could also be valuable in a case where app/cell phone usage around a key timeframe also plays a vital role.

In this day and age where everyone is attached to their phones, wearables and other devices, the amount of data these companies collected on us is astronomical. The scary thing is that most people do not even realize the breadth of data that is being collected on them and that all of it could be discoverable. In the eDiscovery world this ancillary data may be relevant in very specific cases that most attorneys may not even know exists. The next time an investigation arises you may want to ask yourself, “What else is out there?”

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