When you look at some of the modern conveniences made possible by technology, the evolution of online shopping continues to stand out. Just over the past few weeks, both Amazon and Walmart upped the ante by announcing the rollout of next-day shipping, making online shopping even more convenient.
Those advancements make it an easier decision to spend two minutes buying something on your smartphone versus going to a brick-and-mortar store. And because of that, it can be easy to lose track of everything you buy online dating back years - but not for Google.
Little did we know, Google's quietly been keeping track of our online purchases for years. It even has a secret page that lets you see what data it's been recording, but it's no easy task to delete the information. We'll show you how to find it, what you can do about the info that's already been stored and tips to keep it from happening again.
Google knows about the shoes you bought in 2010
Think about the online purchases you've made over the past decade, like smartphone apps or tangible items, from A/V receivers to gas grills to clothing and shoes. C'mon, there's no way to remember everything you've bought, right?
You've probably long-since forgotten about that pair of shoes you bought in 2010 that you finally kicked to the curb 5 years ago. Well, Google still remembers.
Google's been keeping track of your purchase history for years if you've had those receipts sent to your Gmail account, according to a new report by CNBC. I, for one, didn't know the information it was recording and I've been using Gmail for 15 years.
So I visited this hidden page and found a lot of history going back to 2010, everything from Amazon to eBay to Five Guys Burgers & Fries. Take a look at some of these dates:
Google didn't have records of everything I've purchased over the years, but it still had a fairly extensive list, nonetheless. And there were so many things I've since gotten rid of, or forgot I bought in the first place.
How to check your own purchase history in Gmail
Ready to check your own purchase history? First, navigate to https://myaccount.google.com/purchases. As long as you're logged in through Google or Gmail, you should see a full list of the purchase history that's been recorded through your account.
One thing I noticed in my own history is that my newest purchases were listed at the top, until I went further down the list. As I kept scrolling, I found that some purchases would be grouped together in the same time frame of a few months while others would be chronologically out of order, sometimes by years.
You can click into any record for more information, with details like the name of the retailer and order numbers. Some records are more detailed than others.
Deleting the purchase history and changing your privacy settings
Google says this information is private and can only be viewed by you. It also says it doesn't use information from your Gmail messages to serve ads, which includes your shopping history.
Then again, this data collection has also been flying under the radar for years, so take that for what it's worth. Keep in mind, it wasn't even a year ago when we learned that Google was letting app developers read your Gmail messages.
You can delete your purchase history, but Google doesn't make it easy. You have to delete each transaction, one by one. To do this, start by clicking into one of your purchases See an example below:
In the top right corner, you'll see an "i" for more information. It'll bring up an option called Where's this from? For the purchase below, it says the information came from Gmail. That means it pulled the record from an email receipt I had kept.
You can then view the email, or simply go back to the transaction record and look for the Remove Purchase option at the bottom. You will then be prompted to confirm removal, which may also include deleting the specific email it's tied to. Now, just think of doing this process for potentially hundreds of records.
Once you've completed that, you can modify some Google settings, none of which deal directly with purchases.
Visit Google's Data & Personalization page to modify your activity controls (click or tap here to access). There, you can change Web & App Activity settings, along with others like Location History and Device Information. You can choose some data to delete automatically, or manually.
Google's big push lately has been all about privacy, but it's apparently still got a long way to go.
"Remember, when a product is free, you are the product," said Kim Komando.
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