Google has all the data, and it’s usually pretty stingy about how it lets users control that data, even data about the users themselves and their own activities. But the company is now giving users the ability to access, control, and even delete information about their online activities on a granular level.
The company’s new My Activity console is an attempt by Google to allow users to pick and choose which information the company stores about their activities, including location data, browser history, search history, and voice and audio activity. Users also can dig down into the specific kinds of ads they see and control which types they want to block.
Google began rolling the My Activity portal out to some users this week, and it puts much more control over account activity in users’ hands. Once signed into her Google account, a user can go to the My Account page and then select the My Activity option. The activity controls portal then gives the user the chance to turn on and off history collection for a number of things, including web search, YouTube search and watch, device information, and location history. She also can delete specific kinds of activity history stored by Google.
But the option that many users will be most interested in is the one related to ads. Google’s business is predicated on selling ads and showing as many of them as possible to users. And the recent rise of ad blockers has presented a serious challenge to the free flow of money in the ad business. Ad blockers have become a major problem for many online companies, but none more so than Google. The My Activity tool gives users the ability to tell the company which ads they’re interested in, allowing them to personalize their preferences. But it also gives Google more information on users’ interests, which the company can then use to help advertisers craft more relevant ads.
The My Activity portal also lays the foundation for Google to be able to serve the same ads–and track users–across their various devices. The settings in the tool give users the option to save their interests across all of their apps and devices, something that will be quite valuable for advertisers, who covet that ability.