How Much Time Do You Spend On Google Services? Now You Can Find Out

Google, presumably in a bid to underline their openness and honesty in the face of heavy criticism recently, has introduced a brand new service to users. Account Activity, still in beta but open to all, provides you with password-protected insights into your use of Google services. All of them. Except, it seems, Google+…

Google made the announcement on their blog yesterday and clearly they feel it is an additional security step:

“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.”

What it also does is underline just how much information Google keeps on you. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is a whole other blog post which I may deal with another time.

The service is opt-in and once you’ve signed up you will receive emails telling you when an updated report is available. So what’s in it and what use is it?

Here’s a screen grab of my own Account Activity:

Google Account Activity

As you can see, you can choose the date range from which you want to see your data, as well as delete reports should you so wish.

The date ranges are, for the moment, monthly and as this is a new service you will have access to precisely one report. Going forward, having access to several months will give you an insight into how your use of Google’s services change over time. Remember that every single Google service is now under one account, so Gmail, Search, Google Docs, YouTube and the rest are all going to be listed here if you use them.

The first section details which countries you’ve logged in from, using what browser and what device. For me it’s no surprise to see it’s only the UK, from Chrome and mobile using Windows and my iPad and iPhone. Imagine you’re a frequent flyer accessing Google’s services from hundreds of locations and devices though – this data could well prove useful to you.

Next up are authentication changes, including passwords, additional email addresses and applications you’ve allowed access to your Google account. In my case it’s LinkedIn and Google+ on the applications front.

Incredibly useful data, especially if you suspect someone is attempting to hack your Google account. Spot anything out of the ordinary in there and you can immediately take steps to beef up your security.

How many emails do you send a month? To whom? Your Gmail data is given to you in a clear and concise manner, showing how many you’ve sent, how many you’ve received and who your most popular contacts are. In my case I sent only 73 emails yet received nearly 3,000 – the power of spam! My top contacts include my fiancée and my brother. Good to know.

The Web History section is very interesting and for me threw up some surprising results. This is basically your search history and shows the number of searches, your top queries and the types of searches you’ve made.

Apparently I made 385 searches in the last 30 days. Not surprising as I’m an SEO. What IS surprising is my top queries. Not one of them is work related! “Beer bottles” was for a personal project I ended scrapping, as was “alcoholic drinks” (I’m not an alcoholic!). “Marilyn Monroe” was a search I did for my upcoming wedding (don’t ask!). No mention of “american sweets”, “medical negligence” or “estate agents Manchester” – but then that’s because I do most of my work related searches logged out…

57% were web searches and 38% were image searches…I have no idea where the remaining 5% were done though?

Finally for me, YouTube (clipped on the screenshot). Oddly, this isn’t about me, but my videos. There were 19 views of videos I’ve uploaded to YouTube, my most popular video was of the killer whales at Loro Parque, Tenerife and the majority of views were from Google users in France and Spain. That data will help massively if you’re into YouTube marketing.

Google+, aside from Gmail and Search, is probably my most used service but this data is strangely missing and I don’t get why. This, for me, would be the most valuable information. Knowing how I use G+ would be valuable and I can only hope they add it soon.

If I used more Google services, such as Docs, Latitude and Calendar I’d no doubt have more data to view here, some of which could prove useful in the way I go about my day to day internet usage. Alas, aside from the additional security it provides it is more interesting than it is useful at this point.

I’ve no doubt the data can be used to inform marketers (see the YouTube information as an example) but only in a limited way right now. Perhaps Google will extend the amount of data it provides in the future. Either way, it’s a nice feature to have and, as ever, Google is keen to stress that you can completely delete your reports at anytime from their servers, attempting to give you peace of mind from the whole Big Brother thing.

Have you accessed your Account Activity yet? Found anything surprising…or even worrying? In fact, have you found a valuable use for it yet?!

  • Written by on 29th March 2012 at 10:42
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