Once upon a time many years ago, I set up a G-mail e-mail account. With this nifty service, I sent and received tens of thousands of e-mails. As the years went by, Google and G-mail expanded their services. In addition to their Google search engine, they added Google Assistant, Google Books, their own dictionary, databases for government websites, financial news, chat rooms, hotel check-in services, airline flight comparison services, image searches, Google Patent Search, Google Shopping, a video search engine, ten advertising services, Google Docs, a job application program, blogging services, free online storage service, Google Business Solutions, Google Calendar, Hangouts, You-tube video sharing, assignment grading services for school children, Google maps covering every inch of the globe, traffic analytics, the Chrome operating system for computers, Google TV, storage for personal photos, Google Pay (linked to your credit card), Google translation services, Google Play music, internet calling, cell phone service, and a history of every internet website you have ever gone to.
I doubt that many people realized when they signed up for that free e-mail account, how intertwined in their lives it would become. There is no part of life that is free from the finger of Google. When Googles pastes together all the information they harvest from the above services, they have a very comprehensive picture of your life and your habits. And sadly, most of us never saw it coming. We just wanted e-mail service!
So I set about to close out that e-mail account. I spent a good amount of time going through e-mails, deleting messages from the inbox, sent folder, and customized folders. Then I emptied all the trash. But I wasn’t done. Unbeknownst to me when setting up the e-mail, I had a “Google account” that I don’t ever remember consenting to. It contained lists of places I had gone, locations of computers I had used, websites I had visited, etc. There were pictures in their “cloud” that I had accidentally sent there instead of merely saving to my computer hard drive. Every time I thought I had cleared as much off that Google account as possible, I would find something else to clear. They had also saved several pictures of my face, which I tried unsuccessfully to change to this nondescript picture:
The message came up: “Are you sure people will recognize you in this photo? It doesn’t seem to have a face in it. Upload a different picture.” Google simply would not let go of those last couple pictures of my face, and I finally gave up on that battle.
When I had deleted as much as I could everywhere Google, I clicked the button to delete any device data that I had missed. It gave me a choice of deleting yesterday, the last 7 days, the last 30 days, or “all time”.
It felt great to click that last “delete” button. I’m sure they’ve still got all sorts of stuff on me saved, but I am doing what I can to break the grip of Google. I don’t use their e-mail, cloud storage, browser or search engine. While it’s impossible to erase what’s already been collected and stored by Google already, I will no longer make it easy for them to catalog my life.