Google, just like Facebook, collects a lot of personal data about its users. While many of us might have put that thought to the back of our minds, this week one web developer reminded us of the true extent of Google’s great data grab with this eye-opening Twitter thread.
The post went viral, unsurprisingly, given that the details it contained: Google tracks every journey you make, it logs every video you watch on YouTube, and it even knows your tastes.
It doesn’t actually send any of this data outside of its own four walls. Instead, Google hordes it all so it can learn more about you, and better target the adverts you see and the services you use.
If the thought of a single company having all that information in one place makes you uncomfortable, then not only can you stop Google from tracking your every move, but you can also delete all the previous data it has been collecting on you. (Alternatively, you could download it (although we wouldn’t recommend it).
How to see everything Google collects on you
Since 2016, Google has allowed every user to see all of this information through a privacy website called My Activity. This will show you a timeline of every interaction you’ve made through one of Google’s apps – whether it’s watching a video on YouTube or asking for directions through Google Maps. Prepare yourself, it’s a bit scary.
Stop Google saving every search you make
Google uses a lot of the data it collects to help it work faster – that’s why when you start typing in Google Search, it seems to instinctively know what you’re looking for. This can be useful, but comes with a tradeoff: Google records and remembers every search you make through Google, Google Now or even Google Maps. It doesn’t share this with anyone, but stores it for its own services.
To stop Google recording every search head to My Activity by clicking here. Now click on Activity Controls on the left-hand side of the screen.
You’re now in the main settings screen. The first setting is called Web & App Activity. Turn this off and then click on the word Pause. Also untick the box below that says Include Chrome browsing history and activity from websites and apps that use Google services.
Stop Google tracking your location
Google tracks everywhere you’ve been either from devices where you’ve signed in to Google Maps or through an Android device. Users with iPhones or Apple devices will find that Apple automatically limits this tracking considerably so you won’t have the same terrifying map of locations as Android users.
Head to My Activity by clicking here. Now click on Activity Controls on the left-hand side of the screen. Scroll down and you’ll find Location History. Turn this off and then click on the word Pause.
Stop Google tracking which smartphones you use
Google stores information about every Android device that you sign into, the idea being that it can better recommend apps and services the next time you have a new device.
Head to My Activity by clicking here. Now click on Activity Controls on the left-hand side of the screen. Scroll down and you’ll find Device Information. Turn this off and then click the word Pause.
Stop Google recording your voice
Every time you say ‘Ok Google’ to your phone or smart speaker Google saves that request so you can go back and review it or delete it. Google says that it saves these in order to improve the way your devices respond to you.
Head to My Activity by clicking here. Now click on Activity Controls on the left-hand side of the screen. Scroll down and you’ll see Voice and Audio Activity. Turn this off and click Pause.
Stop Google tracking every YouTube video you watch
When you’re using YouTube Google is recording every search and every video that you watch. The idea being that it can better recommend videos you might enjoy watching.
Head to My Activity by clicking here. Now click on Activity Controls on the left-hand side of the screen. Scroll down and you’ll see YouTube Search History and YouTube Watch History. Untick both of these boxes and click Pause when each box appears.
Stop Google creating a profile of you for advertisers
Google shares surprisingly little with advertisers in terms of your personal information. Rather it uses all of that information to create a rough anonymous profile of your interests. It is this info that is then used to target ads for products you might like. To see your advertising profile click here.
You can also turn off ad personalisation or tweak your own interests if you’re not happy with the adverts that you see. You can also scroll down and change your profile which will usually be a gender and a rough age range.
Download all your Google data
Soon to be everyone in the EU’s legal right, Google already lets you download all the data about you that it currently holds. While this might make interesting reading, once the data is on your computer it is now arguably less secure than it was before, so treat it with care.
Start by clicking here.
You can now pick and choose the type of data you want to download and in what format.
Delete all the data Google currently has on you
This is, remarkably, pretty easy.
Head to My Activity by clicking here. Now head to Delete activity by. Simply click on the date range and select All time. Now click Delete.
To delete all the location data Google has on you head to your Timeline by clicking here. In the bottom right-hand side you’ll find a rubbish bin, click on it and then click I understand and want to delete all location history.
To delete all the device information being collected on you click here. Now on the right-hand side click Delete All.