How to control your privacy for Google services

How to see what Google knows about you

It should be no surprise that Google scrapes all sorts of information about you. The collected information is then used to produce targeted advertisements and improve services. Despite our vigilant efforts to safeguard our privacy on the web, it’s becoming harder and harder to avoid the grasp of such a wide-spread service.

Luckily, thanks to a bunch of new privacy rules and Google’s own efforts to paint itself as transparent, everyone can see an aggregated data sheet of exactly what Google knows about their personal lives through Google Takeout menu.

Google Takeout provides an uncomplicated view of every service it offers. All you have to do is check off the services you want to view and click on the “download” button at the bottom. I recommend unticking Google Drive, Google Photos, and Gmail as you can already see their content through their respective interfaces.

While you may expect your archive to include your browsing history, you may be surprised at how Google keeps a detailed account of your receipts, travel information, and your online purchases made outside of Google Shopping. These are all scraped from your receipts sent to your Gmail account; ever notice how your itinerary is automatically added to your Google Calendar?

To Google, the juiciest pieces of info reside in the “My Activity” section. This is the takeout menu everyone should check. My Activity includes usage information in common Google apps like Google Maps, Google Assistant, and Gmail. Fine-grained details such as your Gmail search history, Google Maps usage history, and even your previous Google Voice commands can all be found in here. Try playing back a few recorded “OK Google” commands and see your phone light up.

How to control your privacy on Google

Most of us know how to delete our browsing histories, but that’s just a small fraction of your Google profile. To delete the intricate information buried in Google’s database, you’ll need to delete them from the My Activities page.

Delete your activity history

From a Google Chrome browser logged into the account you want to manage, enter “” into the search bar.

In the left-hand column, select, “Delete activity by”.

In the new window that appears, expand the Delete by Date dropdown menu and select the time frame you’d like to delete. To delete everything, select “All time”. You can also specify which service you’d like to delete from.

After that, hit “Delete” and you’re done. It may take a few minutes for all the changes to apply.

Turn off activity tracking

Now that’s done, click the back button to return to the main menu.

In the left-hand column, select “Activity controls”.

Scroll through all the options and toggle off all activities that you don’t wish Google to track. Keep in mind that some Google features may not work if certain options are disabled. For example, your YouTube video recommendations may not be as relevant if you disable YouTube Watch History. Most of the options have clear explanations as to what they do.

Check other Google activities

Now, return to the main menu again.

In the left-hand column, select “Other Google activity”.

Here is where you can delete all the information outside of the main “My Activity” section. The options here are abundant, giving you control on services ranging from YouTube comments to shared research data. Do comb through these carefully as the changes you make here are irreversible.

After all that’s done, all the information you want gone should be purged from your sight. Whether it’s actually deleted from Google’s database will forever remain a mystery.

Always be vigilant

On more than one occasion, people were surprised by what’s contained within their Google Takeout. That’s no surprise, however, as few of us have the time and energy to scrutinize the service terms and agreements we blindly agree to. And while Google comprises a major part of many people’s work days, another danger is social media. It’s incredible what you can compile about a person through what they willingly share on Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Always think twice about what you’re sharing and saying; it could come back to haunt you later.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at IT World Canada. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at [email protected].

Featured Articles

Cybersecurity in 2024: Priorities and challenges for Canadian organizations 

By Derek Manky As predictions for 2024 point to the continued expansion...

Survey shows generative AI is a top priority for Canadian corporate leaders.

Leaders are devoting significant budget to generative AI for 2024 Canadian corporate...

Related Tech News

Tech Jobs

Our experienced team of journalists and bloggers bring you engaging in-depth interviews, videos and content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives.

Tech Companies Hiring Right Now