Google lets users monitor their own online activity


Google has launched a new tool that lets users see the internet giant’s records of where they have been and what they searched for. The tool keeps people posted on patterns at Gmail, YouTube, online search and other Google venues visited while signed into their user accounts over the preceding month.


It announced, "Today we're introducing Account Activity, a new feature in your Google Account. If you sign up, each month we'll send you a link to a password-protected report with insights into your signed-in use of Google services."

Google said that data deletion at the data source, that is, in a user's web history, will have "no impact" on issued reports, although the reports themselves can be deleted at any time.

However, Google insisted that the service will actually improve privacy and not have the potential to expose sensitive information.

"Knowing more about your own account activity also can help you take steps to protect your Google Account. For example, if you notice sign-ins from countries where you haven't been or devices you've never owned, you can change your password immediately and sign up for the extra level of security provided by 2-step verification," the company pointed out on its blog.
Google added that to maintain safety and privacy it might sometimes ask users to verify their passwords, even if they are already signed in. It might do this more frequently for services "involving your personal information," it said.

"Sometimes it's helpful to step back and take stock of what you're doing online," Google product manager Andreas Tuerk said in a blog post announcing the "Account Activity" feature.

He gave an example of a report potentially revealing that someone's account was signed into from countries they haven't visited or from gadgets they don't own.

The new feature was introduced the same month that Google rolled out a new privacy policy allowing the firm to track users across various services to develop targeted advertising, despite criticism from consumer advocacy groups.

Google contends the move simplifies and unifies its policies across its various services such as Gmail, YouTube, Android mobile systems, Google+ social network and Internet search.

But critics including European privacy agencies and U.S. consumer watchdogs argued the new policy, which offers no ability to opt out aside from refraining from signing into Google services, gives the Internet giant unprecedented ability to monitor its users. And some say it violates EU privacy protections.

Google said the changes are designed to improve the user experience across the various products, and give the firm a more integrated view of its users, an advantage enjoyed by Apple and Facebook.

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