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“My Activity” is the centralized service by Google that reveals how much Google knows about you.
Until recently, if you wanted to know what Google knows about you, you had to use multiple tools to find out about that. There was one for YouTube videos, another for search, a third for advertisement, a fourth for locations, and so on.
My Activity by Google combines all these in a simple chronological listing that you can go through easily.
With the problems Facebook has encountered by violating the privacy of its users, and the massive data collection that Microsoft embedded in Window 10, Google is making an attempt to separate itself from the others.
That simply means that Google is trying to convince its users that they can have some measure of control over what Google knows about you.
Or at least what it allows you to know what it knows about you.
Google was launched initially as a search engine. Then it began logging those searches and selling the results to companies for a nice profit. Then they started matching searches to actual users and selling that information to advertisers. Then came location history, then …..
The list seems to keep growing.
But it all began with Search, and the collecting, cataloguing, and selling search results. Search is the top income earner for the tech behemoth. The company records search activity for signed-in users and associates it with a user’s account. That’s how they know who you are. When you sign in to Gmail, or YouTube, or any other Google service, they are tracking you.
Google recently launched an update to My Activity that makes it easier for Google users to delete their search history. While it was possible previously to delete certain activity, users weren’t really sure which page they had to go to that could make that happen.
Users had to open the My Activity page after signing in to their Google account to delete some or even all of the records. The page did not have a “delete all” button, however, which reduced usability quite a bit.
The new changes make things a lot easier as it requires just a click on the “Your data in Search” page to clear the entire search history that Google associates with the account.
Google added a link to the data management options on its main Google Search page but Google customers may open the link directly as well if they prefer to go there directly.
- Load https://myactivity.google.com/privacyadvisor/search in your browser of choice to get started; this opens the “Your data in Search” management page on Google’s My Activity website.
- Scroll down to “Delete your Search activity” on the page.
- Select “Delete all Search activity” to erase the entire history, or “Delete last hour” to only erase searches made in the last 60 minutes.
- Confirm that you want the records to be deleted by selecting “delete” when the popup opens.
Google reveals underneath the option that selecting delete will erase activity data including search terms and the links that users activated on search results pages.
The popup highlights that Google may keep some Telemetry data, e.g. the number of searches of a user, after the search activity that is on record is deleted. Essentially, once data is deleted, the collection starts all over again.
Users may disable Web & App Activity on the same page to disable the saving of search activity. Doing so affects “all Google services that rely on Web & App Activity” for personalized service.
The following Google products are also available:
- Web & App Activity
- Location History
- Device Information
- Voice & Audio Activity
- Switch interests based ads on or off
- YouTube Search History
- YouTube Watch History
The changes are available for desktop and mobile search offerings on the Web. Google plans to roll out updates for its Android and iOS applications to integrate the functionality as well. These should be available by mid-2019 to Google users worldwide.
Lastly, don’t let yourself become complacent about this. The Google search engine does not require any “signing up” to simply search – but it will still track you by your IP address and record that information (such as search terms, links clicked, Chrome browser ID’s, SSL session ID’s, and more, including services such as google analytics, google fonts, etc).
Going to YouTube and watching a video doesn’t require “signing up”. Using Google maps doesn’t require an account. Using Google DNS servers also requires no account and indeed, I don’t even think there’s anything to read or sign or agree to just to use the basic services.
But make no mistake, even if you are not signed in to Google or any of its services, it can – and will – track and record your activities. This is how invasive into almost every corner of the web they have become.
Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!
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