How To Delete Your Google History Before Google’s New Privacy Policy Kicks In

Delete your Google browser historyIn just a few days (on March 1, to be exact), Google will enact a new privacy policy that allows the search giant “to gather, store and use personal information,” according to Digital Journal.

One of the biggest changes of the new policy is that Google will consolidate the privacy policies for its nearly 60 products, introducing a uniform policy that will be consistent across all Google products.

According to Google, the company will “use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users. We also use this information to offer you tailored content—like giving you more relevant search results and ads.”

Despite the aforementioned—and other—benefits, privacy advocates are concerned that Google’s new policy will track and store too much personal information about users. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, for one, recommends that all Google users delete their web histories prior to March 1.

Once the privacy policy takes affect on March 1, users can’t opt out unless they completely give up Google. Prior to that day, however, users have the option to delete their Google web histories. If you care about this and want to delete your Google history, here’s how:

How To Delete Your Google History

Go to Google.com and sign into your account.

Delete your Google broswer history

Click the drop-down menu that appears in the upper right-hand corner of your screen (as pictured above).

Select Account Settings.

Select Services.

Click the link for Go To Web History next to View, Enable or Disable Web History.

Delete Google browser history

Click Remove All Web History.

And with that, you’re all set. You’ve essentially hit the “pause” button on Google’s ability to collect data about you and assign it to your Gmail and/or YouTube accounts. If you decide to opt-in to Google’s data collection policies, you can hit “resume” at the top of your Go To Web History page, as pictured below.

Resume Google browser historyWhat do you think? Does this step to protect your browsing history from search seem attractive to you? Will you be deleting your Google history? Or are you moving into a new era of Google privacy with no cares about your search records? I’m not sure where I stand yet, but I’d love to know what you’re thinking.

Image by mnemophobe via Creative Commons

  • http://twitter.com/Karen5Lund Karen E. Lund

    Good but not good enough. Search results will still be skewed by people I know and their connections, so I’m also going to export the Contacts from my primary Gmail account (they’ll be saved elsewhere) and then delete them from Gmail.

  • Sean

    This is nice to know but unless someone intends to radically change the type of things they search for or completely give up using any Google service, is there a point?

  • http://shinytoyrobots.com/ Robin Cannon

    I find it very difficult to come up with the motivation to take extensive measures to ensure my privacy from Google. I ultimately can’t see any great interest in Google abusing my information when the real day to day benefit is simply going to me an improvement in the relevance and consistency of my own user experience.

    I’ve actually always been frustrated by the irritatingly fractured nature of many of Google’s services; how Google Docs can’t be effectively linked to a Google Group, how the multiple sign-in only works and some services and not others. So from a consumer standpoint I actually want greater integration.

    I’m cognizant of the privacy issues, but actually we give away so much private information to so many different agencies, that I don’t see an integration of the data that Google *already has* as being of a major concern.

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

     You make a great point, Robin. It appears that the data Google is collecting may actually benefit Google users in terms of making products/results more relevant, etc. And I *definitely* agree with you on the fractured nature of Google’s services. I’ve had ongoing issues with my Google Apps account and wish it offered the same functionality as a “regular” Gmail account. Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

    I think that’s the million-dollar question, Sean. Would someone’s search history radically change after that person wiped his or her search slate clean, so to speak? I can’t say I’m necessarily concerned about my search data and what it indicates about me, but on the flip side, I’m aware that my view point may not be shared by others. And as for completely giving up Google services – well, there’s no way ;) I appreciate your comment!

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

    Thanks for your comment, Karen. I’m glad you’re here to weigh in on the other side of the debate and am interested in the fact that you’ll be exporting and deleting your contacts. It makes sense, though – from what I’ve read, search results are not only expected to get more personalized, but also more social, too. Will you be periodically deleting your contacts to ensure that information remains out of the Gmail system?

  • http://robertnelsononline.com nar321

    I’m going to err on the side of caution and do what your article suggests(in fact have don e it)

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  • Laurel

    I have no issues with privacy over what I search for, being a somewhat bland academically inclined sort but wonder about the content of my gmail account. I have used it extensively as a convenient mobile platform for business. It’s not my go-to account but is a conduit and includes contract documents forwarded fur convenience and so on. Is that an issue?

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

    Thanks for weighing in! Erring on the side of caution is never a bad thing!

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

    GREAT question, Laurel. I’m doing some research now and have found some info from a recent ArsTechnica article that I thought might help:

    “Google has been able to see and use its users’ information for a long
    time, as in targeted ads displayed alongside Gmail. With the new privacy
    policy, Google will store information from all of the services a person
    might use, including location and application information from
    smartphones, Google Wallet, Google+, your search and viewing history in
    YouTube and Maps, books you browse, RSS feeds you read, and your Blogger
    posts marked “private.” The company can then share that information
    across all of those services.”

    Here’s the full post: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2012/01/pascals-wager-googles-new-privacy-policy-could-anger-ftc.ars

    And here’s more info from a post on The Week: For example, says Brent Rose at Gizmodo,
    “if you searched for ‘Furbies’ on Google’s homepage (for some freaky
    reason) and then later went to YouTube, you might see Furbies videos pop
    up. That’s new. Previously, data was compartmentalized between
    applications.”

    From my research, I don’t think you’d need to worry about specific content of your emails being shared. Instead, Google scans emails to deliver the targeted ads that you see in a sidebar alongside your inbox when you’re logged into the desktop site (which is something that Google has always done – it’s not new.) Under the new privacy policy, this sort of information is going to be available across all Google products, so you might see similar targeted ads or even videos in YouTube, rather than those results being confined just to your Gmail account, for example.

    I feel like I threw a ton of information at you, but I hope it helps. Let me know if I can answer other questions, and thanks for stopping by and sharing your input!

  • Anonymous

    great stuff google are getting too nosey if you ask me…

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

     You’re not alone in that sentiment! There’s been quite the backlash regarding Google’s new policy, and it will be interesting to watch as the situation continues to unfold.

  • http://twitter.com/lauraBseymour Laura S.

    I just checked mine, and apparently, I’ve never had this enabled. YAY.

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

     See? You’re ahead of the curve!

  • http://twitter.com/Soulati Jayme Soulati

    Do you think that a blogger and researcher has so many browsers open that Google would have a hard time pegging (me) as my patterns are not typical of someone who works in one vertical. Of course, I’m talking about Google, but…just wondering why I ought to be bothered by this…does my browsing history help my SEO in any way for my online profiles?

  • http://twitter.com/lapstarr Lisa Starr

    I don’t know much about the Google Privacy changes, but it does sound like they will have too much information from us.  Thank you for this.  I retweeted it, so others can have this valuable information and make their choice.

  • http://twitter.com/lapstarr Lisa Starr

     As far as I know, it doesn’t.  The only way I can see it being a benefit for SEO is your own benefit.  What I mean by that is if you visit a certain site to bring targeted visitors or improve SEO for your website, your web history might be useful, but you can always bookmark those websites.  That may be one of the things that Google is trying to do.  Yet, from what I know about this, your web history will be used more for discovering YOUR buying habits.  Anyone is welcome to correct me if I’m wrong.

  • http://YourStressMatters.com Dr. Rae

    Katy, I too have “erred on the side of caution” yesterday, and have found myself having to deal with too many Privacy Alerts needing to decide each, and every time to block or not to block sites I have never heard of, and know nothing about.  Please advise, thank you…

  • inmycar

    what if you only have youtube account?
    I see no provision for deleting that history.
    And what about those who have no google account, but google still
    collects info from their IP address? how is that info deleted?

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  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

     Glad you found it helpful, Lisa. So many things on the Internet change so quickly that it can be difficult to keep up!

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

    From what I’ve read, you’re right on, Lisa. Google is compiling the data to deliver ads that are better targeted, and instead of that being applicable only in Gmail, for example, it will occur across all Google services. I’m also inclined to think that, because Google is a search company at its core, it will use data to deliver more relevant search results, too, but I’m not sure that would have any impact on an individual’s SEO, as Jayme asked. 

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

    Jayme, I wanted to jump in and address another part of your comment that I didn’t mention when replying to Lisa. I think a lot of people are worried about the policy from a privacy standpoint, and of having their search information used to generate data about them. I think I mentioned in an earlier comment that I, personally, am not necessarily concerned about what my search history “says” about me, other than I use Google … A LOT! :) But if someone is searching more sensitive topics, it makes sense that he or she would be more invested in keeping that information private.

    On the flip side, however, I read an interesting viewpoint the other day that classified an individual’s search data as a form of “payment” to Google for using all of these free services. Of course, I don’t think that gets Google off the hook, and they have the responsibility to protect the data and use it in ways that won’t bring harm to others. Still, I see the connection – if someone wants to “invest” in Google’s services and platforms, it’s only natural that there would be some sort of related cost.

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

    Good point about YouTube. If you only have that account, the data you generate is likely going to be a lot lower than someone who actively uses multiple Google products (like me!)

    I did some digging, and here’s an interesting article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (which I mentioned in the blog) about how to protect your search data regardless of what site you use. Maybe this will be helpful? It’s old, but the information appears to still be relevant to today’s Internet landscape.

    https://www.eff.org/wp/six-tips-protect-your-search-privacy

  • Jenny MacBeth

    Thanks for the reminder. I went ahead and deleted mine. I’m pretty much an open book,  but not sure what could be out there. However, with this new policy, I will be more aware in the future.

  • http://lightspandigital.com Mana

    Thanks for the tips. I went through the steps and it turns out my web history was already turned off. Not sure when or why I did that but apparently I always had it off… Did they automatically turn on web history? Or is it off my default do you think? 

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

     Appreciate you stopping by, Jenny! It’s nice to hear from a fellow open book :)

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

    Good question, Mana. Laura Seymour said the same thing in an earlier comment, so it could have either been a default setting or something that you had to opt into at some point. I confess that I’ve only been a heavy user of Gmail and Google products for the last couple of years, so my experience before that is nothing short of sketchy.

  • Adam

    As of now it is off by default, but come tomorrow expect it to be on by default.  the best thing to do is empty is now, and maybe keep it off for a week or so so the cache gets cleared out.  Once thees new polices take affect it is not really going to change to much, just that now everything is/ has the same privacy policy.  I would recommend if you are really worried about it, to use Firefox’s private function, which you can turn on by RIGHT clicking the icon upon before launch and “enter private browsing.”  This will side step anything that google tries to collect on you anyways, and just wont allow them to do it.  On another note there is no real concern because everything that they are doing they have been doing, they just have now come out and really explained it, just remember anything you put on the web is there forever, there is no such thing as deleting something from the web, it is always on some database somewhere, and can be found with enough time, so don’t put anything on the web that you don’t want seen public, don’t search for things that might be questionable, and be ready to be catered to.  This is leading up to a major change in the way marketing is done, and I would put fair money that Google is going to enter the T.V. industry in a big way and offer something no other company, and that is T.V. al la cart, or you pay for the channels that you want.  Being able to give the consumer direct adds that they are interested is something Google will be able to do with this, and in turn will give them a very strong hand in the T.V. advertising market place, and allow them to offer channels at a competitive rate, while keeping prices much lower overall.  Think about it, most people watch 10-15 channels, but have 100+, and pay over $100 dollars a month, if Google can give you local channels, plus 15 of your choice for $45 dollars a month that is a very strong place to be in.   

  • Walkiria50

    In would say do not follow any blog, do not save any document in the documents área, do not create a permanent search request, do not create photo albums, etc… Do not connect with your gmail account or leave comments like this if you have to sign with a google account. I spent 4 hours going through the google “products” I used and had saved my information and deleted it. Nyou need to do more than pause your history recording.believe me.if you can delete your YouTube accounts.

  • http://twitter.com/KatyWrites Katy Schamberger

    Fantastic points, Adam. And you’re right – Google has already been culling search info to deliver targeted ads and results. Because of the new policy, however, they’re changing how the info is used (i.e. across multiple products) and broadcasting those changes. And I have no doubt about your prediction re: GoogleTV. In fact, there’s already speculation that Kansas City (our hometown) may get GoogleTV service in addition to the Google Fiber network, which is currently being installed.

  • Anonymous

    You’re right. I’m probably not concerned enough about it (well, let me rephrase that) – I am not concerned enough about it to change all the things I do using Google that make my life easier. But I think you’re right … people forget about the habits they have and the permissions they give.

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