Auto Delete Your Google Data
The less they know, the better
In This Article
• What info does Google collect?
• Where do they get it from?
• Why do they collect so much data?
• There is some GOOD news!
• How to minimize the data collected
• How to tell Google to auto-delete it
As you may be aware, Google collects a large amount of data about us as we use the web, even on non-Google websites.
We'll show you how to minimize the data Google keeps so that you can protect your online privacy.
What Information is Collected?
As we mentioned in our article about website tracking, most websites use tracking software and Google (along with Facebook) are the largest collectors.
The data they collect includes the websites we visit, the links we click on, the videos we watch (and for how long), and even physical locations we visit in the real world (see how your smartphone reveals your location.)
The Google Data-Collecting Empire
Most of us know Google as a search engine. But that's just the tip of their iceberg.
Google also owns (and therefore collects data with) the Gmail email service, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Images, Google Finance, Google Flights, Google Maps, Google Shopping, and YouTube.
They also own the Chrome web browser, the Android operating system for tablets and smart phones, the Nest smart thermostat company and the Waze navigation app.
All told, there are hundreds of websites, apps, and products owned by Google, and they collect data with all of them. It would be very difficult to do anything normal in today's world without interacting, in one way or another, with something that Google runs.
What About Incognito Mode?
Some web browsers have “modes” that reduce the amount of information collected. In Google Chrome, it's called “Incognito”. In Mozilla Firefox, it's called a “Private Window”.
While these modes won't save a record of your browing history, or store browser “cookies”, the websites you visit still know you were there because they do their own tracking. And since many websites have built-in Google trackers, you're not going to avoid data collection by using these browser modes.
Why Does Google Collect So Much Data?
The short answer is $$$.
How much do you pay to use Google services like Gmail, Google Search, and YouTube? If you're like me, it's $0.
There's a saying that “If you're not paying for the product, you are the product.” Most of us do not pay for Google products in cash, but we do pay in data.
That data, about our online habits and behavior, is very valuable to Google because they sell it to advertisers and others. Some use it to target us with online ads and some use it in other ways that aren't so obvious.
The Good News!
Until recently, Google not only collected a lot of data about us, but kept it forever unless we specifically asked them to remove it.
Most people didn't even know they could make such a request. Even the ones who did had to go through a difficult and complicated process to actually get their data removed.
Now Google is giving us more control over what data they keep and for how long.
To be clear, Google is not providing the ability to completely remove all data. (The only way to ensure that Google has no data about you is to have never used any of their services, or maybe be in the Witness Protection Program, but even then they probably know about you!)
Google will keep data for at least 3 months, but that's much shorter than “forever”.
How to Tell Google to Delete Your Data
You can minimize the amount of data Google collects about you, and how long they keep it, by going to your privacy settings online.
1 Start at https://myaccount.google.com (This link will open in a new tab / window, so come back to this page for more instructions.)
2 Click “Data & personalization” on the left
3 Click “Manage activity controls”
4 On the Activity controls page, click “Auto-delete”
5 Select “Auto-delete activity older than 3 months”, click “Next”, click “Confirm” on the popup (not shown here), and click “Got it” on the next popup (also not shown here)
6 You should now be back on the “Activity controls” screen. “Uncheck” all the boxes, making sure to scroll down the page to see them all
7 Make sure the “toggle switch” circle is on the left and grayed out, then click “Manage activity” for each of these sections:
- Web & App Activity
- Location History
- YouTube History
8 In each section, click “Delete”, then select “All time” in the popup (not shown here), and click “Delete” in the next popup (also not shown)
9 If you use the Google Chrome web browser, you can delete your browing history by going to this page, clicking “Delete All” and then “Delete” on the popup that asks “Delete your Chrome history from all time?”
The bad news is that if you're going to be online, or use any kind of Internet-connected device, Google is going to collect data about your activity.
The good news is that you can now limit what's collected and how long it's kept.
If you have any questions about anything here or if there's an issue you'd like us to write about please get in touch.
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