The 13th annual Data Privacy Day, which highlights the importance of protecting personal information in a digital age, hit on January 28. The actions one can take to protect themselves, however, needn’t stop on that day. Social media is often the focus of such concerns, but it’s just as important to take caution when it comes to other companies with a large digital presence, like Google. In light of Data Privacy Day, here’s how to delete the data Google has on you.
Google gains new information with nearly every click you take. From your search habits, your location data, to the YouTube videos you spend hours watching. The amount of personal information Google holds may be overwhelming and recent headlines bring even more mistrust towards social platforms like YouTube. Just last year, YouTube (owned by Google) was investigated by the FTC for violating data privacy for minors.
Check Personal Information Google Has
- Go to your Google Account page.
- Type your Google username (with or without “@gmail.com).
- Choose “Personal info” from the top left menu bar. Delete or change whatever information you no longer want saved: name, birth date, gender and photo.
- See what can be viewed publicly by scrolling to the bottom and selecting “Go to About me.”
- Change what information you don’t want to be viewed publicly on the previous page, but you cannot make your account completely private.
Your Online History
While you can limit the amount of data Google tracks, you can also decrease the amount of time it holds your information:
- Again, go to your Google Account page.
- Choose “Data & Personalization” from the top left menu bar. View your activity Google has saved by scrolling to “Activity controls” and select “Web & App Activity.”
- If you want to stop tracking your searches, browser history, and map activity, uncheck the respective boxes.
- Click “Manage Activity” to see all the information Google has collected from the activities mentioned above.
- Control when such data gets deleted, whether it be every three months of every 18 months, by selecting “Choose to delete automatically.”
- You can also delete data manually by choosing “delete activity by” through clicking by the hour, day, and all-time (or even custom range). Make sure to select “delete” or “confirm” to verify your actions.
Your Location History
- Just like checking your online history, go to “Data & Personalization” from the navigation bar.
- Scroll to “Activity controls” and select “Location History” to see Google’s log of your location data. Turn off the toggle if you want to stop future tracking.
- Click “Manage Activity” to see Google’s log of your location data as a timeline and a map, from the places you have gone, the routes you took and how much you visit.
- Click on the trash can icon and choose “Delete Location History” to permanently delete all location history.
You can’t make settings to automatically purge location date after a set amount of time. You can only turn off location tracking to avoid your information from being saved (which means you can no longer effectively use Google Maps). Or, you can use Google Maps in incognito mode.
Your Youtube Activity
You can also control what Google tracks from your YouTube search and watch history, which is used to tailor target ads and recommended videos. Another option — choosing what data Google tracks and how long it keeps track of it.
- Choose “Data & Personalization” on the navigation bar.
- Scroll to “Activity controls” and select “YouTube History” to see your stored location data.
- Turn off the toggle to stop future tracking on your YouTube data.
- Click “Manage Activity” to see the list of all your existing searches and watch history.
- Like your browsing activity, you can choose to delete your YouTube history by the last hour, day, all time, and custom range.
- Make sure to confirm your actions by selecting “Delete.”
For more articles on how to protect your data, see:
- How to Stop Apps From Tracking Your Location Data
- Period-tracking Apps Caught Sharing Sensitive Data With Facebook
- See If You’re Failing Online Safety For Kids