probably knows you better than your closest friends and family. With every
search you make or YouTube video you watch, the search giant is quietly
collecting information for a personalized profile it uses to serve you targeted
ads. But a new tool called My
Activity makes it easier than
ever to see what information that Google is stockpiling about you – and delete
things you’d rather it forget. Here’s what you need to know about this new tool
and how it can help you manage your privacy.
So what exactly is My
It’s basically a timeline that shows you what Google has saved about your
online activities going back as far as Google has been tracking them. You can
find it by going to http://ift.tt/292XN1e.
(Note: You’ll probably be prompted to re-enter your password as a security
measure.) Once you’ve made it in, there should be a big chronological list of
things you’ve done using Google’s services – the searches you’ve made, videos
you’ve watched on YouTube, and so on (assuming you haven’t already used
Google’s privacy controls to block the collection of certain information, of
You can even
search through the data trove to look up a specific record or activity Google
has saved – like maybe the time you searched for a home remedy for plantar
warts – or filter the timeline by date or type of activity.
And you said I could
Yup! If you don’t want Google remembering that plantar warts search
or when you binged watched videos of a cat in a shark costume riding a Roomba,
it’s pretty simple to erase. First, you need to find the record you want to
delete, which is made easy with the search bar at the top of the page. Once
you’ve found the shameful bit of your online past in the timeline, you can open
a little menu by clicking on the three vertical dots on the right end of the
record. Select the delete option on that menu, and voila – Google will forget
can also delete things in bulk by clicking on the three dot menu at the top of
the timeline, choose “Delete activity by” and selecting a date range
to erase on the next page. If you want an entirely blank slate, opt for the
“All Time” option.
What if I want Google to
stop tracking this sort of data?
You’re in luck! You can “pause” Google’s data collection whenever you
want. To lock things down, head to http://ift.tt/292izB5.
From there, you can tell Google to stop saving information about things such as
your searches, location history, and YouTube watching habits.
if looking back through your My Activity timeline has you a little paranoid,
it’s probably also worth running through Google’s Privacy Checkup. That
feature, which can be found at http://ift.tt/1Jf8L1J,
uses a simple interface to not only help you manage what data is being saved by
Google, but also things like what information about you may be public through
services like Google+.
Is there a downside to
erasing my history – or pausing Google from saving it altogether?
Well, there’s definitely one for Google: The search giant makes the vast
majority of its money from distributing targeting ads, which is made easier by
the trove of data that they have about users’ online activities. But that means
that limiting the data they save will probably result in you seeing ads that
are less relevant to your interests. And beyond ads, Google uses the
information to help personalize their products to users’ preferences, which can
mean a more convenient online experience. For instance, Google has said that
letting it save your search history can mean that it returns results quicker
and letting it hold on to location history can help it suggest better commute
options in its Maps product. So really, it’s a trade off.
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