It doesn’t seem all that long ago when concerns over Google’s tracking habits and subsequent privacy issues were at the forefront. At the time, I remember plenty of users railing about Google’s data collection practices and swearing to never use Google for anything again. My, how things change!
Gmail is now probably the most popular web mail service available, Android is the most widely used OS in the world, and despite the emergence of several safer alternatives, Google’s search engine still rules. All this despite the fact that, if anything, Google’s level of data collection has increased. However, people’s memories are short and it seems Google has now been supplanted by Microsoft as the evil data collector incarnate.
Introducing My Activity
I recently visited Google’s new(ish) My Activity page which allows users with a Google account to delve into their Google past and find out just how much data the search giant has collected about them – and I got the shock of my life. This collection not only includes past search queries going back to the year dot but also all activity associated with any of Google’s online services – a veritable bottomless pit of information.
To Google’s credit, setting up the My Activity service not only portrays a refreshing willingness toward transparency but also allows users to delete some or all of the collected data. Here’s how:
Visit Google’s My Activity here: https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity. You’ll need to sign into your Google account.
Activity is displayed chronologically, day by day, so it’s a very long list. To delete data for a specific day, click the three little dots on the right hand side and then click Delete:
However, the setting I’m guessing most will be interested in is how to delete everything in one go: From the menu on the left hand side of the page, click Delete activity by:
You’ll now be presented with a number of options. The option we’re after is “Delete by date”:
Access the associated drop down menu and select All time:
Now click the blue DELETE button at the bottom. A new window will open, click DELETE again:
Of course, some might find the My Activity service quite useful – for example; if you’ve watched a video and want to watch it again but can’t remember the details. Plus, this type of history can help curate search results and other information specific to your particular interests. However, as far as I am concerned, the less Google knows about me, the better.
On the one hand, I admire Google’s efforts to become more open, but I also found it pretty scary to actually see just how much they know about me.