October 21, 2019 | Molly Seif

People Who Downloaded Their Online Data Share The Unsettling Things They Discovered


No one is safe from data collection. Big corporations are always seeking information about you and your interests for their gain. Whether they're listening in on your conversations or tracking your every location, they always keep you under close observation. Their eyes and ears are always following your every move. While most people already expect that these companies are storing data about their daily habits and personal preferences, there are still some things they've found in their online data that gave them a creepy feeling. People from around the world took to the internet to share the unsettling things they discovered about themselves when they downloaded their online data. These stories will surely gave you a reason to revisit your privacy settings.

Five Data Privacy Principles from Mozilla (Put on a museum wall)Flickr

Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!

#1 Chinese Rap

Their profile claims I like Chinese rap. I have no idea why other than one video I came across in the YouTube rabbit hole. I also have this problem with air-conditioner repair videos in Korean. No idea why Google thinks I speak Korean or why my air conditioner needs repair.

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#2 VP Of Nothing

I'm the vice-president of a company that I've never heard of and I can't find any other information on it. The scary part is, this could be serious identity theft. That "company" may be used for illegal activities using my personal information to open credit cards, for example.

#3 Odd Audio

There's an audio recording of me saying, "Check the Jewish boys." I don't remember ever saying that, but okay. Not something I ever thought I'd admit on the internet, but here were are...

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#4 Nothing Is Ever Truly Deleted

On the topic of Google Photos and allowing Maps to track your location: I took photos that I didn't like, so I deleted them. Weeks later, I was just browsing my timeline in Google Maps and those deleted photos were still there, tagged to the location. Nothing incriminating, just thought you should know that nothing is ever truly deleted.

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#5 Suspicious Voice Clips

There are recordings of conversations I had with my boss for over two years. I don't know why it only had recordings of us talking and no one else. I just listened to a load of voice clips of me talking into my voice-to-text thing on my phone keyboard while driving four years ago. Apparently, I talk like an idiot—I speak really slowly so the words could be heard distinctly. "I. AM. GOING. TO. GET. BACON. SEE. YOU. LATER."

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#6 Unknown Location

I got tipsy once and proceeded to get lost on the way home. I ended up riding on some highway. For two years, I wondered where the heck I had been until I saw Google's location history for that night.

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#7 Late-Night McDonald's Run

I just found out I DID go to McDonald's in the middle of the night during my friend's birthday party without anyone noticing. They were telling me I was just passed out the whole time.

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#8 Your Phone Is Your Identity

I found all phone activity—when I opened an app and when I closed an app, etc. from the very first day I owned my phone. There was a constant check of my GPS and a constant check of my device orientation. If someone steals your Google account, they basically can found out everything there is to find out about you.

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#9 Harry Potter Spells?

I checked my entire history of voice recordings and it was just me trying the "Lumos maxima" and "Nox" commands. Nothing else. Apparently, I already turned it off and I forgot I did.

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#10 Facebook Spies

The most unsettling one I've had came from Facebook, not Google. A minor bit of background—I'm a straight guy with a lot of LGBT friends and was actively involved in supporting the Australian same-sex marriage campaign, so Facebook probably had me flagged as gay at the start of 2012.

In 2012, I started dating someone. We'd been friends for some time. I'm on Facebook all the time, and she had an account but almost never used it. We basically never communicated on Facebook. Immediately, Facebook started telling me to mark her as a 'close friend' and all of its ads changed from "Gay Singles Cruise" and similar to "Romantic Getaways for Couples."

I can only assume that it was able to tell from GPS that she spent a night at my place and that I spent one at hers a few days later.

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#11 Creepy Friend Requests

I previously worked in a mental health and substance abuse recovery center, and TWICE I had new suggested friends pop up on social media (specifically Snapchat and Instagram) immediately after a patient checking their phone in the waiting room. I once had a patient try to add me this way. Our GPS locations matched up and flagged us.

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#12 Cheating Notification

A few months back, Google decided to spam me with ads for "Couples counseling" and those websites like, "Unhappy relationship? Change that by clicking here!" I thought it was really weird at the time since my browsing history or Google searches hadn't changed. Nope—somehow, Google worked out that my partner was cheating on me, and gave me relevant ads for the inevitable fallout.

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#13 Apparent Sleepwalker

Apparently, I sleepwalk thousands of kilometers and then manage to get back home in time for work. Also, there are a bunch of recordings of my computer's fan spinning.  Ah, Google. Hyped up Google. Incompetent Google. I know my data is in good hands.

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#14 That's Not My Voice

I have downloaded my data from Facebook, and the most shocking one was a recorded phone conversation of about 30 minutes long. It was dated back around five to seven years ago, and most surprisingly it was not even me who was speaking and I could not even recognize who it was...

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#15 Scary Business

Google knows every location I've been to for the last couple of months. They stored multiple audio files of me talking to colleagues and friends and worst of all, I did not know they were doing that. My mind is blown and I'm terrified, my private information is no one's business, Google.

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#16 Home Control

I feel like I should have more of a problem with Google having my data. Especially voice recordings. But after going through what they had... It was like 400 recordings of me saying make some coffee, play this video on Netflix and turn off the lights. Maybe it's a bigger problem for people that use their assistants for more than home control.

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#17 Someone's Always Watching

There is a map of everywhere I went in the last couple of years that's accurate to the hour.

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#18 And Someone's Always Listening

It wasn’t Google data that shocked me; I kind of expected it to know everything about me already. This came from Instagram. My period was very late, so naturally, I told my husband in our very private and quiet home setting that I bought a Clearblue pregnancy test. We don’t own TV, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or similar. I just have Reddit and Instagram on my smartphone. My period was just late, but the very next day, I got bombarded by ads on Instagram about Clearblue and other pregnancy sticks. There is no way that it was a coincidence since it was the second time getting a very, very specific ad. So the app is listening, and showing me ads accordingly.

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#19 Careful What You Buy

My purchase history on websites like eBay, Amazon and other companies that, I guess, all sell their data about me to Google. I had no idea of it and although I share things like my location to Google, seeing my purchases is kind of scary because I never allowed it.

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#20 You Are The Product

I downloaded the Facebook data, and they store every single call date, the length of the calls, and the phone number of the other side. If something is free, you are the product.

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#21 Scary Data

Facebook data is terrifying to look through. To have every picture you've ever sent in any conversation stored by them is scary. I'd joined a chat once that turned into an 18+ sharing thing, so now I just have all these random pictures from around the world sitting in that data after being in that group for less than two days.

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#22 Always One Step Ahead

What is even more bizarre is that hot off of this bad press, Facebook released the Portal: A video calling device that is designed so that the camera literally follows you as you move around your room. The fact that this device appears to be taking off in any capacity makes me feel like we're living in the Twilight Zone.

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#23 Nothing To Hide

I was surprised. Everyone talking about all the stuff they found. And my seven-year-old account only had 1 GB of data. Data that was extremely boring. Like Google Play Store order history, etc. I turned all the activity and tracking off years ago, but I still thought there would be more!

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#24 Tracking Every Move

They had tracked literally EVERYWHERE I had been since 2015. They knew every single STORE I'd visited, and on what date and time. Every restaurant, every hair salon, every nightclub, every plant nursery, you name it, they stored it! Google had it all. All innocuously stored under the title "Google Timeline."

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#25 Tipsy Audio

So many tipsy audios. Like, not even meant for the phone, just background talking while very tipsy. It was half unsettling and half fun to listen to them. Apparently, when you press the microphone on the keyboard (I think it's for changing audio to text), it gets sent to Google. And apparently, my tipsy self is very prone to misclick it.

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#26 Car Vs. Motorcycle

It's not unsettling, but I found out that Google can tell when I'm driving a car versus my motorcycle by using the gyroscopes on my phone. There are several ways to do that, actually. For example, if you are on a road with a bit of traffic and Google, based on your GPS, sees that you are moving while everyone else is stationary, it doesn't take much to figure out that you're probably not driving a car.

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#27 Nothing To Fret Over

I did this a while back and it's basically nothing. Only a few gigs worth of GPS data and some voice recordings back when I had my Galaxy s3 and I wanted to try Google assistant when it came out. I did get a good chuckle out of half my voice recordings being: "OK Google, go screw yourself!" in my squeaky, younger voice.

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#28 They Know What You Buy

It's not the most unsettling, but I didn't know until recently that Google tracks all purchases you make. And I don't mean purchases just from Google or using Google Pay, but everything. If you get an e-mail receipt from any store or service, then it's added to the log. I don't know if they scan other Google services but it wouldn't surprise me. My list of purchases went back over 10 years.

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#29 Not What, But How

I'm a web designer and I can tell you that the scariest thing is not what they have on you, it's how they get that information. Honestly, browser fingerprinting is pure evil.

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#30 Unsettling Conversations

Random voice clips when I absolutely hadn't activated Google Assistant. The one that felt weirdest was a random clip from when I was babysitting and reprimanding a child for misbehaving. Very unsettling.

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#31 A Scary Thought

Every photo you store on Google Photos is actually stored on a public URL. Sure, it's very hard or even impossible to guess as it's randomly generated, but if someone has the link, they absolutely can see a picture of you.

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#32 Wherever You Go

When I discovered Google Maps' Timeline feature, it was cool at first, flicking through years of location data, looking at when I'd been on trips, being amazed at how it had guessed what attractions I'd visited, how I'd got there, etc.

Then a few weeks later it dawned on me. Through that little rectangle of glass and plastic in my pocket, Google knows where I am every minute of the day. It knows where I live, where I work, what route I take between the two, what times I'm likely to leave and arrive, what my favorite places to visit are, where and when I like to shop.

What do I get out of this? It saves me 5 seconds when searching by suggesting places I've visited before. But if someone wanted to ruin my life and got a hold on some of that data, they could seriously screw me over. No thanks.

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#33 Caught Red-Handed

We share a Google account at work. A few of us would use it and forget to sign out. The search history was casually raised in a conversation by the boss. I immediately went red and felt flustered. I had definitely searched: "Is my boss a micromanager?"

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#34 The Most Unsettling Thing

The most unsettling thing is that there are so many people surprised that Google collects data. All these people agree to this when using Google services. Also, it never really was a secret, to begin with. Most people know this and there are people warning about this.

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#35 Sleeptalking

So far, I've just gone through some of the voice recordings. Most of which were me asking the assistant questions. Then I came across one from 5 a.m. one morning of me mumbling the word "attest" while I was sleeping.

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#36 Big Government Secret

There's a recording of a meeting I was having with the top officials of a government organization, which was supposed to be a secret. It also had the exact location and time. I could get into trouble over this as I signed a confidentiality agreement.

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#37 Off On A Rant

I was going off on a rant to a friend about how horrifying it is that our soldiers were losing their lives at the whims of politicians who, if looked at in the correct perspective, are just bank or megacorp employees. It recorded the whole thing.

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#38 Beyond Luck

I haven't got to download my data yet but it's terrifying the number of times I'd be playing a game then something pops up in search way too early. For example, I was playing Minecraft with my friend last night and I asked him how to cure a zombie villager. He didn't know, so when I searched "how" into the bar it just came up. It's not always spot on, but it almost always knows what game I'm playing whether it be on PC or PS4.

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#39 Advice: Switch To Linux

I once got an email with booking information for a flight, while I was at the airport. My Android phone received a notification telling me what gate my plane was at and the updated departure time. Since then, I've gone become full tin hat when it comes to using computers. I even switched to using Linux. I'd tell everyone else to do the same.

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#40 Father, Is That You?

The most unsettling came from Facebook, of which I uninstalled and deleted my account right after that. I’ll keep it short: my friend’s father abandoned him and his mother when he was about seven years old, and the father never reached out.

Two years ago, he had a tough day. We talked about his “dad” and how life would be different if he did not bail on them. At the same night, I was scrolling through Facebook and some old guy that looked very similar to my friend showed up in my suggestions. Immediately, I took a screenshot and showed it to him. It was indeed his father that he hadn't talked to for about 18 years.

Mind you, my friend never created a Facebook account nor used other platforms, so we talked strictly through Steam. How in the heck did they suggest him to me? I did not even know or have anybody with common friends and it literally popped the same night after a heart to heart. The craziest part is, the whole incident gave my friend the courage to seek his dad and find answers for himself... I hope he'll be okay.

#41 Nice Try, Thief

My dad's phone got stolen and he downloaded the information from Google. He got the most recent pictures of the thief who took selfies. Also, he was able to get their login details for their Snapchat and their travel path on Google Maps with their current live location displayed. He called the cops when he saw the thief was currently in the park and they just went there and arrested her. He got his phone back.

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#42 Vivid Details

Well, I downloaded my data, and while I was not surprised by all the recommendations, the thing that caught me off-guard the most was how detailed my daily routines and trips were. It made me remember the parts of the city I used to go to with different girlfriends. Literally every detail, every duration at certain locations. Pretty scary. Not that I have something to hide, but having access to the metadata is, at least for me, really scary.

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#43 A Change Of Pace

Something cool for a change of pace: I was in France recently. I decided to go to Grenoble for a weekend. I got a notification suggesting I revisit a trail I hiked as an exchange student three years ago. I shared it with my host from back then, and it allowed us to reconnect and catch up after a long time of losing touch!

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#44 Too Creepy

I didn't download my data yet, but I remember going on a date with a girl who left her phone at home. She used my phone to call herself, then her sister used the phone localization function to make sure she hadn't lost it... It said the phone was at her place BUT HER GOOGLE TIMELINE STILL SHOWED HER AT THE RESTAURANT WITH ME!

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#45 HD Beginnings

My Google data had a video of my birth in 1987 and it was in HD. Scary stuff!

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