March 29, 2012 at 3:21 PM ET
If you use Google products regularly and have not disabled your Web history, a new feature called Account Activity might be an eye opener. It's a monthly report from the search giant that shows just how many emails you send, your most frequent contacts, where you go and what you've been searching online.
As described on the official Google Blog, Google's Account Activity is "a password-protected report with insights into your signed-in use of Google services." So, if you have given Google open access to your Web History, the report will give you how many searches you've done, top queries and search types (Web vs. images, for instance).
If you've consented to Google Latitude tracking where you are, then you'll find places you've visited, recent trips and a pie chart breaking down where you spend your time per week (between home, work and being out).
I've rejected both of those, so my report is on the thin side, but it did tell me that I sent 219 emails to 92 contacts, while receiving a whopping 1,797 emails from 415 contacts. And then it gave me the top three people who I've had the most contact with in the past month. I'm not surprised, but it is interesting to see it all laid out.
Bigtime YouTubers (that wouldn't be me, with a paltry 137 views of my uploaded videos) will also get details on their video views, most popular uploaded video and where their viewers are located.
There will no doubt be some griping, as usual, about the intrusiveness of Google into users' lives -- but this kind of transparency may give you insight into what personal data, exactly, Google is collecting from you. If you have opted out of some of these products, as I have, it's going to generate a report that might actually reassure you. And if not, maybe it'll be a good reminder to change your privacy settings and lock down your activity.
Earlier this month, on March 1, Google caused a commotion by consolidating all its privacy data from all its products to better sell its user information (in a big, general way) to its advertisers. We told you how to clear your Web History, and within that story, you'll also find instructions for clearing out your activity on YouTube.