This little known tool, which turns one this June, lets you download a copy of your Google presence.
By: Chris Null

If you listen to the growing chorus of online chatter about the company, Google’s now-infamous “Don’t be evil” slogan is becoming increasingly inaccurate by the day. The company’s most recent move–a sweeping change that consolidated most of its privacy policies under a single umbrella–immediately drew umbrage from critics who felt that Google was on its way to taking all the data it has collected from its users through its dozens of services and building an exhaustive dossier on each of us that would be used mercilessly in efforts to sell us things.

Google wants you to keep using Search, Docs, and Google+, so it’s trying to play nice, and last June Google introduced a service designed to let you see, in part at least, what Google knows about you with a single click.
Called Google Takeout, the service is so simple that it is completely undocumented when you visit the site. You sign in, and then see an offer to “Download an archive of your data from” a variety of services (outlined below), and that’s it. You can grab it all in one click, or choose specific services from which to download, but unless your usage of these services is exhaustive (think thousands of Google Docs or Picasa photos), the one-click approach is easiest.

Getting it to go

Here’s what Takeout currently offers:
    • A list of URLs to all the +1s you’ve handed out.
    • Your Google Buzz history, presuming you have one.
    • A list of contacts from your Circles in Google+.
    • A list of the contacts you have saved in Gmail. (These are kept separate from your Circles contacts.)
    • Copies of all the Google Docs you’ve uploaded.
    • Copies of any photos you’ve uploaded to Picasa. (These may include photos uploaded for use on a Blogger site, if you’ve ever had one.)
    • Some basic information about the personal data you include in your Google+ Profile
    • Links to each entry you’ve personally shared on your Google+ Stream. (Other people’s streams that show up in your feed are not included.)
    • Your full Google Voice log, including a list of all attempted and completed calls and texts, MP3s of each voice mail, and Google’s transcript of each message.
Everything arrives in a single zipped file that you unpack, revealing a separate folder for each Google service. The formatting of this material can be inconsistent. Google Voice messages are saved as individual HTML and MP3 files, but your +1 bookmarks are amalgamated into a single file. Picasa photos are well organized into folders, but Google Docs are delivered en masse regardless of how you use Collections on the site.
Circles and Contacts information comes in the form of several VCF files, each containing information for contacts split into each of the default categories for Google+. These are easiest to open with Windows Contacts (right-click on a file and you’ll see the option; no, I didn’t know this application existed either). Information on my Circles contacts was limited to a name and a malformed link to their Google+ profile.

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