I know what you Googled this summer, last summer, and the summer before (but not much before then)

Tags: , , , , — Jeff @ 17:09

Google collects a lot of information about its users. Or, more accurately, users give an awful lot of information to Google. (If you hadn’t guessed, I have little sympathy for people who complain about Google invading their privacy: if you don’t like the ways Google can use the information you give it, don’t use Google.) It’s therefore not surprising Google comes in for a good share of complaints about its “invasions of privacy” or some similar alarmism. Recently I stumbled across mention of one service Google now provides to give users insight into what information Google tracks about them: Google Dashboard, a one-stop shop directing you to modifiable views of much of the information Google has recorded about your interactions with it. It currently covers these Google services:

  • General account details (password, email address, &c.)
  • Alerts
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Docs (& Spreadsheets)
  • Gmail
  • iGoogle
  • Orkut
  • Product Search
  • Profile (the link you see at the top of results if you search for a person who’s created one and made it publicly available)
  • Reader
  • Talk
  • Web History
  • YouTube

These services “are not yet available in this dashboard”:

  • Google App Engine
  • Google Groups
  • Google Book Search
  • Google Subscribed Links
  • Google WiFi

Skimming through the data yields this information about me, at a general level:

  • Searching (since May 12, 2007):
    • Total searches: 16026 (speculation on where that puts me overall by searches/day? I’m guessing top 5%, probably an even smaller percentage)
    • Total sponsored results viewed: 23
    • Total sponsored results viewed from searches with no intention of buying anything (i.e. I searched to learn information not meant for my potential use in making a purchase): 17
    • Total sponsored results which resulted in purchases: definitely 1, maybe 2 depending how broadly you define “purchase”, possibly 3 if you count one as minimally contributing to an eventual purchase that was ultimately made based on recommendations from friends
    • Total sponsored results clicked resulting in purchases not previously planned: 0
    • I’d always thought advertising basically doesn’t work on me; this seems like solid numerical evidence of that
  • I basically haven’t touched my calendar in over two years (not surprising, I’ve never had success keeping and regularly using a calendar)
  • I’ve created two docs/spreadsheets (one to track acid3 progress, one to track shared apartment/utility/etc. expenses with Jesse)
  • I have 12450 conversations in Gmail (most of it just archival storage of my college dorm’s mailing list, some other mail I’ve mostly ignored)
  • I have a tab and a theme in iGoogle, which I basically never use (prefer Ctrl+K in Firefox, or the non-customized home page)
  • I have one album in Orkut with nothing in it (probably auto-generated in the days when I was thinking of investigating Orkut’s JavaScript sandboxing implementation like I did Facebook’s; the account’s otherwise dormant)
  • I have four items in a Google shopping list, all dating back almost five years ago, all of which I still don’t have (“need” is far too strong a word for any of them)
  • I have 61 Reader subscriptions
  • No contacts in Talk, not even sure I’ve used it since it first came out
  • My YouTube account information until just now claimed I still live in Cambridge, MA

Of course, the search part is the most interesting bit, but there’s still a little gravy for me in the data on the other services. Does Dashboard reveal anything interesting to you about your interactions with Google?

Edit: Something else worth noting, after further exploration: their current UI for examining manual route changes in maps is clearly more prototyped than polished. It appears that every route change shows up as its own “search” in the map history UI, which results in dozens of “searches” showing up for viewing a single set of directions and modifying them to reflect some other choice of roads. (Except when I merely want to place a location on a map, I change the automatically-determined route nearly every time because I can’t bike on freeways like US-101, and nearly every generated route traveling up or down the peninsula uses it.)