How to Stop Google from Tracking you and Delete your Personal Data
It's no secret that Google knows a lot about you. The Silicon Valley giant's business model is largely reliant on advertising and data collection. This information is garnered from all of your interactions with the company: through search, the use of maps, and a lot more.
The company doesn't make a huge song and dance about its in-depth knowledge of its users, but at the same time it doesn't keep it a secret either. With the right know-how you can see what Google knows about you and limit what it uses for advertising purposes. Here's how to find out what Google knows and take control of your data.
Google saves all your searches
Probably the least surprising of the lot, but Google has all of your search history stored up.
How to delete it: You can get rid of your weird search history by heading to Google's My Activity page. Here you can see your Google Activity from today. Click on Delete Activity By in the left hand column and then select Search from the dropdown menu.
If you want to stop Google tracking your searches for good, head to the activity controls page and toggle tracking for Web & App Activity off. This includes Chrome history and activity for sites that use Google services.
Google saves every voice search
Google's voice search-saving habits have been reported on many times.
Anyone who use Google's voice search, the voice-activated Google Assistant, has their searches stored. This helps serve more relevant ads and search features are steadily improved – in the same way you'd expect from regular Google search.
A lot of people don't realise that many of these searches are actually recorded. This means users are able to listen back to exactly what they searched for by listening to what they said and how they said it. You can find all your recordings here.
How to delete it: If you've used any of Google's opt-in voice features for yourself, then head to Google's Voice & Audio Activity page to turn-off the features. Click manage activity to delete.
Google tracks and records your location
As well as recording your searches and your voice, Google has also been keeping tabs on your location.
Google's location history, or timeline page, serves up a Google Map and allows you to select specific dates and times and see where you were. Its accuracy depends on whether you were signed into your Google account and carrying a phone or tablet at the time and is a little creepy.
How to delete it: From the settings page you are able to access location activity controls. Here you can turn off location history.
When you visit the timeline page you can hit the settings cog in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and select delete all from there. There's also the option to pause location history. For more details on how Google tracks your location – and how to stop it – check out Wired's in-depth guide.
Control advertising data
One of the more interesting places to check out what Google really knows about you is to head over to its ad settings page where (if you're signed into your Google account) you'll see a profile Google has built for you based on your search history, YouTube history and interests. So, for example, it might know that you're male, aged 18-24 and interested in banking, consumer electronics, mobile phones, shooter games, rap and hip-hop and toys.
From this page it's possible to turn ad personalisation on (or off). If you opt out of personalisation then the adverts that follow you around the web – trainers, when you searched for them once – will stop appearing. Google's ad network operates on more than two million websites around the world and limiting its knowledge about you will make everything seem that little less creepy.
Delete your Google account
If you've had enough of Google and want to completely delete your account, it's completely possible. Google's Dashboard shows you all the information and servic. connected to your account, the download data page lets you take it all away and finally you can delete your account here.