Hi, I’m Neil Lang, and I am helping Hackney Council prepare for new legislation about Data Protection and how we use your personal information. This is the first of a series of blogs I will be posting over the next year about how the Council works with your information and the steps we are taking to put you in the driving seat for how it is used.
Have you ever wondered what information an organisation holds about you? In the information age, as we use online systems, we leave quite a digital footprint behind us. For example, when using free services from Google, you are making a deal. You get to use YouTube, search, Gmail, Drive and Google Maps for free.
In exchange for this free use, you agree to share information about yourself that Google can share with advertisers to target their ads and make them more effective. For instance, airlines want to present to people who love to travel. Toy makers want to target children of the right age group and interests. Read on to find out how to find out what Google already knows about you!
Google uses a lot of methods to learn about you. Some of it, you tell Google when you sign up for its services (your name, phone number, location, etc…) Other information may be less obvious. As you browse the internet, your searches all give clues to your interests — which Google collects for advertisers to direct their offerings to you. Of course, it’s not a perfect world, which is why from time to time you see adverts you might consider quite inappropriate!
But Google also takes user privacy seriously. It knows what information it holds about you (that might seem obvious, but a lot of organisations don’t have a good handle on this, or the tools to readily discover it) – and Google is able to remove information about you so it doesn’t come up in searches (the so called ‘right to be forgotten’).
Public authorities, like Hackney, also have to look after your personal information responsibly. Next May, a new piece of legislation – known as the General Data Protection Regulation – comes into force. This will replace our existing Data Protection Act, and introduces some important new rights about how we look after and use information about you.
- It applies to both public and most private companies.
- It reduces the time to respond to requests for information about you (known as ‘subject access requests’) from 40 days to one month;
- it will require parental consent for processing children’s data;
- it provides for a right to have your data corrected, or removed (with certain exceptions);
- it requires clear consent to data processing;
- it allows you to object to automated processing/profiling using your personal information;
- and you may request (following a subject access request) to have your data provided to you in a portable, machine readable format.
Hackney Borough Council is currently preparing to be able to fulfil all of these new rights, and wants to build solid digital trust with its residents in the way we store and use your data. Unlike profit-making commercial organisations such as Google, we simply want to use your information to deliver better services to you. In particular, residents often have concerns about information being shared between different parts of the Council. We will be transparent about how and why we do this, and we will only do this with your consent. Allowing us to do this will enable us to provide you with great, value for money services, at a time when all Councils are facing reductions in their overall funding.
What does Google know about you?
So how do you find out everything Google knows about you?
By visiting a page called “Web & App Activity,” you can see what Google is watching.
Then by visiting a site called “Ads Settings,” you can see what Google thinks it knows about you, and you can change what it’s telling advertisers about you.
It’s not easy to find your “Web & App Activity” page. First, you have to be logged into Google. Once logged in, go to “https://history.google.com/history/” and click on “all time.”
This brings up a long list of all the web pages you searched. You can delete them, but Google doesn’t make it particularly easy – it only lets you delete one day at a time. You’ll get a warning from Google suggesting that you don’t really want to delete this information (because, in truth, Google doesn’t want you to delete it). Don’t worry if you do, you won’t break the internet or your Google account if you hit the delete button!.
Until next time, happy browsing!