I know it’s only June, but I just checked out Google’s new “My Account” and now the song “Santa Clause Is Coming to Town” is stuck in my head. Except that Google has already been to town—and they know if I’ve been sleeping or awake and if I’ve been bad or good.
Whether it’s where you’ve gone, searches you’ve conducted, or your voice commands, Google is capable of tracking and storing a lot of your personal information. If that troubles you, the good news is that you will probably find My Accounts to be very useful. If that doesn’t trouble you, the good news is that you will probably find My Accounts to be extremely fascinating.
The primary purpose of My Account is to “give you quick access to the settings and tools that let you safeguard your data, protect your privacy, and decide how your information can make Google tools and services work better for you.” In other words, the My Account dashboard breaks down into three major sections: Sign-in & security, Personal info & privacy, and Account preferences. Although what those sections should really be called are: the convenient one, the cool one, and the one you’re used to. Let’s take a closer look at the capabilities of each component.
Sign-In & Security (The Convenient One)
Your private information won’t stay very private if it isn’t secure, so this component is basically exactly what it sounds like; however, it probably has more detailed features than you might have initially guessed. For instance, you can easily turn on a 2-step verification process for your sign-ins or manage your security alerts settings. You can even see all of the devices associated with your account.
It also has two of the most convenient and useful tools I’ve ever seen. In one easy location, you can see all of the apps you have connected to your Google account, and all of the saved passwords connected to your account. If you have saved passwords (i.e. if you’re a human being living in the 21st century), you’ll probably see that you have a lot of these. I personally had way more than I realized, and the fact that I can manage them all from one location is particularly convenient.
Personal Info & Privacy (The Cool One)
In addition to your basic personal information, you can manage and view your entire account history of searching, browsing, places you’ve gone, information from devices, voice searches or commands, and YouTube activity. Yeah. All of it. So basically, Google probably knows you better than anyone. If that’s too much for you to handle or it’s making your significant other jealous, you have the option to pause any of this tracking with a simple toggle switch.
But wait, there’s more! You can also manage your ad settings from here. Either this section will terrify you, or you’ll think it’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. Or both. The ad settings section will give you a breakdown of all the information that determines what kind of advertisements are served to you. This includes factors like your sex, age, languages, and interests. In my case, Google seemed to think that I spoke Finnish, so I deleted that option. While you can edit all of the information, I would like to focus on the interests section in particular.
Your interests break down into two types: interests based on your previous activity on Google and interests based on websites that you’ve visited. Here’s an example of some of my interests based on websites I’ve visited:
You can easily click the x next to any interest to remove it. While I was pretty impressed how well Google had my interests pegged, deleting interests proved to be a very useful feature for the previous activity interests. For instance, I had a listed interest for “Gangs and Organized Crime”. While this kind of made me feel like some kind of boss out of the Oceans movies, it’s also completely untrue. Incidentally, it was also completely untrue when I saw a listed interest for “Dolls & Accessories” (so what if I played with Cabbage Patch babies as a kid—does Google know that?!). Suffice it to say, you’ll probably have a few interests that you’ll want to delete—and you can do so very easily. You can also choose to opt out of interest-based ads entirely.
Last but not least, the Personal info & privacy section allows you to view all of your recent activity (like docs and emails that you’ve saved), manage product settings, and control any content from sources like bookmarks, calendars, or YouTube.
Account Preferences (The One You’re Used to)
This is your one stop shop for usability settings like your language, drive storage, and accessibility. You can also delete accounts or services from this section and you can even remove YouTube content. Like the rest of My Account, I found this section to be very user-friendly and easy to navigate.
I haven’t even begun to touch on all of the useful features found under My Account, but it’s worth looking into for yourself. As mentioned, you will be pleasantly surprised to find how useful and intuitive it is.