Confused about how to find, never mind manage, all your Google settings? Well, you're in luck. Google has given us a one-stop control center for our Google services: Google My Account.
With Google My Account you can manage how your information is used on search, maps, YouTube and other features. You can turn settings on or off for everything from Web history to app activity. With it you will also be able to tweak your security, privacy and ad settings.
Here's how to get the most from it.
First, go to the Google privacy site. Until you understand what data Google is actually collecting, and how the company is using that data, you're not in a position to make intelligent decisions about your Google use.
Before you make such a drastic jump, remember that if you use your Gmail address to sign into other services, or if you use it for password recovery on non-Google services, you'll lose access to those as well. So, make sure to update your sign-in information on them before deleting your Google Account. For example, I use my Google ID for the movie site Fandango and my digital New York Times subscription.
You should also keep in mind that some computer gear, like most Android phones and all Chromebooks, will be seriously crippled without a Google account.
To get all your Google-related data, such as your Gmail, Google Photos and Contacts, you'll need to use Google Takeout. Before you get started with that, you should know that Takeout doesn't download all your data and contacts. In particular, you can't use it get your music from Google Music.
To download your purchased songs from Google Music you'll need the Google Play Music Manager. With it, click Download >Download purchased music.
For almost everything else Google, use Google Takeout. This will give you the option of selecting what services you want to download data from. For example, you might not care about saving your Google Maps or Location history. Then, once you've selected what you do want to save, you'll need to choose what archival format you'd like to get it in.
Google gives you a choice of zip, which is what most of you should use, or the more obscure tqz and tbz file archive formats. In any case, Google will either transfer it to your Google Drive or send you a download link via e-mail.
If you're like me and you have gigabytes and gigabytes of data, this may take hours. Once ready, the archives will be in 2GB sized files. You'll have a week to download them before they'll vanish. If you haven't gotten them by then, you'll need to create a new archive.
With Security Checkup, you can check on your account recovery phone number, e-mail and security question. You can also see what devices you've been using to connect with Google. If you find a device on that list that you don't recognize, you'll know that someone else has access to your account.
As you walk-through the Security Checkup, you can also choose to disable access for less secure apps. After that, you can go through every account or service that uses Google one by one to decide if you still want them to use Google's services. For example, you may use Google to sign in to WordPress. Finally, Security Checkup places you in your Gmail settings.
The Privacy Checkup starts with your Google+ profile settings. Here, you may be surprised to find that your publicly shared Google+ photos may be used as background images on Google products and services. In addition, if you review or recommend say an album you bought from the Google Play store, your endorsements may be shared with your Google+ friends. From here, you can turn both these shared endorsement settings off.
Next, you can decide if you want to enable friends to find you via your phone number. Typically, this is used when people are using Google's video-conferencing, VoIP, and IM service, Google Hangouts and Google Voice.
After that, you can set what you share on YouTube. By default, anyone can see which videos you like and which channels you subscribe to. Here, you can also set whether you want your uploaded videos and playlists to be public, private, or unlisted.
Following the YouTube settings, you can decide what information Google will save about you. This includes what devices you use, your voice searches, your YouTube search and watch history, your search and location history. By default, Google keeps a permanent record of these.
This can be useful. For example, if I'm searching for "penguin," odds are it has something to do with Linux. On the other hand, you may not want anyone to ever know what you searched for that one drunken, maudlin night you were missing your high-school girlfriend.
Finally, you can opt out of letting Google use the data it has about you for showing you Google ads. You'll still see the ads, they just won't be as relevant.
Controlling your Google account
Back at the main My Account page, the other commands in Sign-in & Security and Personal Info & Privacy sections let you move directly to the areas covered by the security and privacy check-up routines.
Under Accounts preferences, you can choose what languages to use with your account. Additionally, you can tell Google to read Google documents to you. This section also shows you how much Google Drive storage you have and are currently using.
Finally, you have the option, as described earlier, of deleting your account.
Personally, I find the advantages of Google search and services well worth having an account. I feel that way more than ever that Google has made it so easy to manage all my settings with Google My Account.