There are times when we all get a tiny bit paranoid that somebody — like the Illuminati, the world government, a clandestine spy organization or an alien mothership — is secretly watching us. Keeping tabs on us. Noting down every single, tiny, little thing that we do. [Looks around, peers out of the window, glances at the sky].
As it turns out, there’s no need to worry about secret groups collecting information on us because it’s actually happening every single day, right under our noses and in our pockets. Some internet users did a very scary thing — they downloaded their Google data, went through it and then posted the most unsettling things they found. Please applaud these courageous individuals who battled intense embarrassment to make us laugh. Here’s a list of the very best responses, so scroll down, upvote the ones you feel are the most interesting and share them with your pals. You can learn more about your Google privacy settings right here.
Not so much that it was stored info, but I was cooking dinner when a friend came in from out of town, and I was making three potatoes. I had never microwaved three, and went to search how long to cook them for. I typed in how long to micr… and the first suggestion was microwave three potatoes. That’s not even the weirdest thing that’s happened, just the most recent. Seriously, f*** google. Check out duck duck go.
Last night I had a conversation via Discord that resulted in me saying “Oh wow! Now I gotta Google what baby platypuses look like!”
Then I proceeded to type “baby” on the Chrome search bar, and immediately got one and only one suggestion: “baby platypus”. They have GOT to be “listening” and processing my audio input real time.
The most unsettling one I’ve had came from Facebook, not Google. Minor bit of background – I’m a straight guy with a lot of LGBT friends and was actively involved in supporting the Australian same-sex marriage campaign, so FB probably had me flagged as gay at the start of 2012.
In 2012 I started dating someone. We’d been friends for some time. I’m on Facebook all the time, she had an account but almost never used it.
We basically never communicated on Facebook.
Immediately Facebook started telling me to mark her as a ‘close friend’ and all of its ads changed from “Gay Singles Cruise” and similar to “Romantic Getaways for Couples”.
I can only assume that it was able to tell from GPS that she spent a night at my place, and that I spent one at hers a few days later.
Reddit user AlleKeskitason asked other community members that had downloaded their Google data, what the most unsettling things they found were. Incredibly, people replied. And their responses were both hilarious and deeply disturbing. For example, one Redditer found out that they’re the “vice-president” of a company they’ve never heard of. While another person found some recordings of their computer’s fan spinning. Spooky, right?
Bored Panda interviewed AlleKeskitason about Google and online privacy: “First of all we have to understand that when you use services like Gmail, it’s far away from being private. The price of free [services] is being the product and Gmail scans through your emails, which is why Google is able to show your online purchases and notifying you of your flights, reservations and things like that. Likewise, by default, your Android phone tracks your location. I found a pretty detailed path of myself walking in rather unsavory places many years ago. While you think you have nothing to hide, the information can be used to determine a detailed profile of you. What you like, what time you go to work and back, where you live and much more. Furthermore, “nothing to hide” is just a lie people tell themselves, everybody has something they don’t want to reveal. All this is used to make a profile of you and used for marketing, which is why Google is so effective in it and why your phone was as cheap as it was.”
The most unsettling came from Facebook, of which I uninstalled and deleted my account right after that.
I’ll keep it short, friend’s father abandoned him and his mother when he was about 7 and the father never reached out.
Two years ago he had a tough day and we talked about his “dad” and how life would be different if he did not bail on them.
At the same night I was scrolling through facebook and some fucking old guy that looked very similar to my friend showed up as suggested friends, immediately I took a screenshot and showed it to him. It was indeed his father that he never talked to for about 18 years.
Mind you, my friend never created a facebook account nor used other platforms, so we talked strictly through Steam.
How in the hell did they suggested that to me? I did not even know/had anybody with common friends and it literally popped the same night after a heart to heart.
“If you want to do something, but don’t want to make your life unnecessarily difficult, you might want to turn off location and most of the other data collection. Google doesn’t have to have a record of what you browsed, what you searched and where you were five years ago. Apps on your phone should be granted only the permissions they need, some silly app doesn’t need your location or access to contacts and microphone,” AlleKeskitason explained to Bored Panda. “Now the obvious question is: if you turned everything off, are you sure they don’t gather data on you? For example, even with location turned off, your rough location can be estimated based on what wifis and cell towers your phone tries to connect to and their signal strength.”
There’s an audio recording of me saying “check the Jewish boys penis” I don’t remember ever saying that but ok
“Avoiding tracking completely can be absolutely daunting task, but there are several things you can do to minimize it, if you are ready to suffer some inconvenience:
- Consider alternative services for the stuff that Google offers, like a paid email that costs a few bucks per month, some other map service and so on. Google search is great, but there are privacy friendly alternatives such as DuckDuckGo, Qwant and Startpage.com.
- Have one browser for social media and Google stuff, and a completely different one, absolutely not Chrome or Chromium, for everything else. In that other browser you want to install at minimum something like Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin (the latter one has a learning curve) to be able to refuse any connections to third-party sites that track you. The reason for this is that many, if not most, pages have a button to sign in using Google account or Facebook like button or something similar. When you go to one site, you also have a connection to their sites to load these. Thanks to cookies and browser fingerprinting, even if you are not logged in to anything, your activities can be traced right back to you.
- You can go to your account page to remove location and all other history, if you don’t want to delete your whole account. Also, if you reside in the EU, you can make a GDPR request to remove all your data. Is it really permanently gone? Well, we just have to take their word on that. Google (or rather Alphabet) might play nice and remove it, but it’s good to keep in mind that sometimes it’s more beneficial for companies to later just say “sorry” and pay fines than to comply. More than one company has been caught doing just that.”
I’m a Web Designer and I can tell you that the scariest [crap] is not what they have on you, it’s how they get that info
AlleKeskitason also added in their interview with Bored Panda: “I don’t consider myself to be a tin foil hat or asking anyone else to be either, but given the sheer magnitude of data collection, I would be a bit worried for several reasons. Google might store the information safely, but you still have all the eggs in the same basket so the safety is at best as good as your password and a 2-factor authentication.”
It’s not unsettling but I found out that Google can tell when I’m driving a car vs my motorcycle by using the gyroscopes in my phone.
“Furthermore, I’d like the readers to consider the following:
- Tech giants have far more data points about us than most people believe. It’s more than location, searches and purchases. It’s also on what machine, on what network, who else is there, what completely unrelated sites you visit, what forums you read, what you watch, your pictures and the metadata in them and so on.
- Speaking of metadata, do you think that nude you sent to someone is safe because it doesn’t show face or other identifying details? Well, I hope you scraped the metadata away, because there is a good change that it has the GPS coordinates on where it was taken.
- Companies might or might not play nicely and delete data on request. Google (or Alphabet) might store it safely, but some other might have already packaged it and sold to a third party. Or it has been simply given as a part of a deal, as happened with Cambridge Analytica. The problem is, we don’t know what happens behind the scenes.
- Data leaks are a real thing. It might be due to incompetence, carelessness or simply a disgruntled worker. This has already happened many times in just this decade and the information is a commodity that is worth money in the dark web.
- Be very mindful of what you give out. When you install for example WhatsApp and give it a permission read the contacts, you also give the numbers of all the people who don’t want to be a part of Facebook to Facebook. Same thing happens when you upload a photo that has your friend in it and maybe even tag her name in it. Congratulations, your friend has now her own shadow profile on Facebook and that’s just a starting point of it, without her having any say on whether she wants to be part of it or not. Just in case you might think I’m paranoid and make this up, shadow profiles are a real thing and Facebook has admitted it. They said it was for “security reasons”, but did not elaborate just whose security they had in mind. Considering that Facebook is just an information midget compared to Alphabet, would it be unreasonable to think that they have them as well?
- Just understand that we live in a computer age. Computing power keeps growing, storage capability keeps growing, data collection keeps growing. Facial recognition is a thing, as is voice recognition and deepfakes. AI and machine learning are things that exist and are being developed. There are far more data being collected than we realize, stored indefinitely and insecurely, dots connected in more ways than we can imagine and all that managed by far more incompetent and irresponsible people that we would like to think.
I also want to mention one more problem with data storing: things change. A joke you say today can [hurt you] 10 years from now. Future government might decide that they don’t like you. This might sound ludicrous, but when you consider how for example Chinese government works, what part Google plays in making smart devices, that Google really wants to do business there and how facial recognition is a thing, we realize what kind of scenarios are really possible. Companies like Alphabet are one-stop-shops for governments and information is valuable in more than one way.”
Not from going through my data, but one time about a year and a half ago, I was sitting there talking to my now-wife about a time when I was a teenager when I snuck out of my friend’s house at night to go hang out with a girl. I hadn’t had any contact with this girl for several years at this point, so there’s no reason to believe she would’ve been searching for me on Facebook/Google/whatever at right around this exact same time.
Her name was mentioned once in this conversation. Afterwards, not 15 minutes later, I open up Facebook, and immediately she shows up as a suggested friend.
So I guess the takeaway here is that not only is Google listening to seemingly everything (their code that waits for the “phrase” is obviously quite liberal in what it considers to possibly be the phrase) from your Android devices, but they also share it with the likes of Facebook and I’m sure other companies.
Your now-wife looked up the girl. If you were sharing the same wifi, Facebook probably recognised that the search was from the same IP that you were using. Facebook compared the girl that was searched to your network of friends, probably noticed that some of your friends were friends of hers.
Suggested that you friend her as well.
They do this [crap] with advertising as well.
Google/Facebook recognise people that regularly share the same wifi connection and assume they are related or friends. If one person searches ‘Caribbean Holiday’, others on the network will start getting ads for Caribbean holidays.
It goes even further. Phone radios like Wifi and Bluetooth have unique identifying features ‘UID’s. Two phones within range of eachother will recognise eachother, associate the UIDs with each phone’s accounts. This means that if you regularly spend time with people (like work colleagues), Google/Facebook will know. And so you often get these people as friend suggestions, you start getting ad suggestions for things they search for.
It’s [messed] up.
Dylan Curran writes in The Guardian that “the harvesting of our personal details goes far beyond what many of us could imagine.” Apparently, Google stores your location every single time you turn on your phone, but that’s just for starters. What’s more, Google also stores search history across all of your devices, so deleting it on one device doesn’t mean that there isn’t data saved from other devices.
Google recorded me saying “I’ll take you home” and then my friend replying “you can live with me in my bathtub”
Oh yeah, Google also has an ad profile created based on all the information it’s collected on you. And it stores all of your YouTube history, meaning, it can guess quite a lot about your life and your goals. If you ever plan on downloading your Google data, keep in mind it’s quite a big file because it includes everything. And I mean everything: from your calendar data and the photos you’ve taken to your bookmarks and emails. Now, I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to sign into my Google account and alter my privacy settings.
I got drunk once and proceeded to get lost on the way home, ending up cycling on some highway. For two years I wondered where the hell I had been until I saw Google’s location history for that night.
It wasn’t google data that shocked me, I am kind of expecting it to know everything about me. This came from instagram.
My period was very late, so naturally, I told my husband in our very private and quiet home setting, and bought a Clearblue pregnancy test. We don’t own tv, Amazon Alexa , google voice or similar. I just have reddit and Instagram on my smartphone. My period was just late, but the very next day I got bombarded by ads on Instagram about Clearblue and other pregnancy sticks and some other baby [crap].
There is no way that it was a coincidence since it was the second time getting a very, very specific ad. So the app is listening, and showing me ads accordingly.
Audio recordings titles are generic and serialized so make sure to take some precautions before listening to them in front of your SO, family or randoms. Please don’t make my mistake..
What do you think of Google collecting your data? Do you think you could ever go through it all? Maybe you’ve actually done it before? A penny for your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Ok, with permission of my husband, here are some of his that made me almost choke from laughing so hard:
July 30th, 2019 – Said is my wife gay
June 8th, 2019 – Said show me images of hot dogs sitting in a pot
April 18th, 2019 – Said how much money can I make from donating my testicles & Said can I sell my testicles
March 12, 2019 – Said show me a Teddy under the skin & Said show me images of what a breast looks like underneath the layer skin
January 2nd, 2019 – Said what is the average price for a hip replacement in Mexico
December 26th, 2018 – Said how big are hamsters decks
December 13th, 2018 – At 5:42 pm – Said show me places I can buy chicken salad near me, then at 5:46 pm – Said do Syrian hamsters masturbate, then at 5:47 pm – Said order me a chicken salad now bitch
December 11th, 2018 – Said do Syrian hamsters masturbate
December 7th, 2018 – Said where’s a good place to go see Christmas lights at you help a brother out
November 26th, 2018 – Said can hamsters go in water
November 5th, 2018 – Said show me the Alexa product & Said how do you say I’m your big black Daddy in Spanish & said how do you say I am your black father in Spanish
September 28th, 2018 – Said f*** you soap
September 8th, 2018 – Said show me large flaccid penises (I shouted this out while he was trying to search something else but it picked up what I said instead.)
July 3rd, 2018 – Said boogers and boogers I like to eat my boogers masturbating while eating my boogers
We shared a google account at work. A few of us would use it and forget to sign out. The search history was casually raised in a conversation by the boss. I immediately went red and felt flustered. I had definitely searched ‘is my boss a micromanager’
Apparently I sleepwalk thousands of kilometers and then manage to get back home in time for work. Also a bunch of recordings of my computer’s fan spinning.
Google knows every location I’ve been to for the last couple of months. They stored multiple audio files of me talking to colleagues and friends and worst of all, I did not know they were doing that.
My mind is blown and I’m terrified, my private information is no one’s business, Google.
My first ever Google search was “what is a chicken” and the second was “are chickens real?”
If you use Google Photos and allow Maps to track your location:
I took photos that I didn’t like, deleted them. Weeks later I am just browsing my timeline in Google Maps and those deleted photos are there, tagged to the location. Nothing incriminating, just thought you should know that a delete isn’t a delete.
Yeah, I deleted some old photos and a year later they came up in a montage of the year. The funny thing is, I’d like them back but can’t find them anywhere else.
Their profile claims I like Chinese rap. I have no idea why, other than one video I came across in the Youtube rabbit hole
All phone activity(opened app, closed app etc) from the very first day I owned my phone, constant check of my GPS, constant check of my device orientation. If someone steals your google account, they basically can found out everything there is to find out about you
I just found out i DID [friggin] go to mcdonalds in the middle of the night at my mates birthday party without anyone [friggin] noticing and they were telling me i was just passed out the whole time.
“My Activity” is empty. It has been for a long time, so, there shouldn’t be anything for me to download, right?
… Nope. 6GB of data.
I just checked mine. I’ve apparently used google voice commands twice. Once to say “search” and another time to say “testing testing.” These were both said over a year ago.
Not the google, but hopefully on topic
I have downloaded my data from Facebook, and the most shocking one was a recorded phone conversation of about 30 minutes long. It was dated back around 5-7 years ago, and most surprisingly it was not even me who was speaking and I could not even recognize who it was…
My purchase history on websites like eBay, Amazon and other companies that (I guess) all sell their data about me to Google. I ha dno idea of it and although I share things like my location to Google, seeing my purchases is kind of scary because I never allowed it.
So many drunken audios. Like, not even meant for the phone, just background talking while (most of the times) very drunk, it was half unsettling half fun to listen to them.
Apparently when you press the microphone on the keyboard (I think it’s for changing audio to text) it gets sent to Google. And apparently my drunken ass is very prone to missclick it.
LOL. I checked my entire history of voice recordings and it was just me trying the lumox maxima and nox commands and nothing else. Apparently I already turned it off and I forgot I did.
I have around 340 recordings. Most are of me using the voice command “okay Google” but there are a fair few that are just background recordings. I can hear myself talking to my mates or singing etc, but i think they’ve been recorded by me accidentally pressing the home button on my phone, similar to a pocket dial. I wasn’t expecting that many recordings but nothing nefarious as far as I can tell.