I use Google search and maps; however, I do NOT have an account, so not use any of their "services" and do not sign in. I do not trust them enough to establish an account with them. Here is some info from them:
Google tracks, keeps, and sells a lot of data about anyone using their services. All web servers you visit have the capability to track what you do on their server/site. They can track, keep, and sell this data. Your ISP has the capability to track what you are doing. The government has the capability to subpoena your info from Google and other tracking sites. Each web page you visit could have a tracking "bug" embedded on the pages or advertisements. Someone is tracking, keeping, or selling your browsing history.
There is no privacy on the Internet. Someone is tracking, keeping, or selling your information at some level.
If you are behind a router and using private address space then as already stated, the tracking is limited to the ip address assigned to you by your ISP.
If you are banking or making purchases on line then ensure that the logins and transactions are being done using SSL, securely using https in the address bar. Your data will then be secure.
You could turn off "cookies" to prevent sites from placing a tracking "cookie" on your computer. Cookies are used, for example, to retain lists of items purchased so that when you navigate into and away from a shopping cart it is not cleared of the items you placed in it.
Thanks for all the replies.
I do have a Google account but haven't used it for over a year and my Mac has had a clean install since then with Mountain Lion. Like most other people I use google for searches, YouTube and maps. Chrome is faster than Safari but this comes at a price.
When I have finished using Safari, I reset it before finishing on my Mac. The webpages I visit on a regular basis are either in the top toolbar with Safari or I know them anyway. I don't use the internet for anything I shouldn't, but I do like keeping some of the things private. For example, looking at trampolines for the children, only to find when they use the Mac they see adverts for trampolines!!! That's why I lnow reset Safari.
Can Google etc see what is on my Mac or hard drives or is it just what my online searches and uses are?
In all reality, there is very little left of "privacy" these days.
Big Brother is everywhere. If you use a cell phone, credit cards,
and of course internet, there is a digital footprint of you left
everywhere and is available to any one with enough motivation
and skills to get it.
Even if you take all precautions possible to be safe, if any one
you deal with is casual in his/her security, any information you sent
them is at risk and a possible link to get additional info on you.
All of this is the cost of living in the convenience of the digital age.
The most you can do is defend yourself as best as possible and
hope for the best.
BTW, if you are a U.S. resident, the "Patriot Act" allows for all
manor of government snooping of all electronic activity going
on. And with all that money and resources available, who knows
what sort of toys they have.
Rather than resetting Safari every time, I use an app called Cookie, from the App Store. It lets you allow some cookies, like for the banking sites, and deletes all other ones, including tracking cookies.
I now get far less targeted advertising than I used to.
Thanks again for your comments.
I think what I have learnt from this is to limit use of Google and it's services.
I don't use web mail or need to have website remember my log in details etc.
Most of the websites I use I know the web address anway and don't use Google Chrome.
I need to make sure cookies and flash cookies are deleted on browser exit.