Your search history is more valuable than you think. Advertisers invested in Google AdSense rely on your search and location data for ads they serve you across the web. Google itself relies on your search data to serve up more relevant results that keep you coming back. It’s the reason data privacy is such a hot topic — every company wants to know what decisions you’re making and why.
Because of this, many Google users are choosing to disengage and opt out of its many personalized options. By disabling Google’s activity tracking, however, you lose access to some very useful features like local search results, ads and recommendations tailored to your interests.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to remove activity tracking without losing most of Google’s standout features?
Luckily, Google has been listening. Because removing activity tracking altogether would break many of the search engine’s most profitable functions, Google has created a forward-thinking alternative for users who embrace the service but don’t want to sacrifice their privacy. I’ll show you how it works, along with how you can activate it on your own devices right now.
What activity does Google track?
Updated: June 27, 2019
Google has started rolling out its location history auto-delete feature. The feature was unveiled in May during its developer conference and will be available on Android and iOS within the next few weeks.
The Verge reports that the feature is being criticized for putting the onus on users to set it up. The new feature allows users to set their tracking preferences to delete in three- or 18-month intervals. Data older than 18 months will be deleted automatically if users choose to turn on an auto-delete feature.
Google keeps tabs on a range of data that details what you do online. Your history of searches, videos watched on YouTube, time you spend on websites, and what ads you click are all factored into your behind-the-scenes Google profile.
Google then provides this data to affiliates like advertisers, and feeds it into its own algorithm that serves you recommendations and targeted material you’re familiar with.
If any of this sounds like a privacy nightmare to you, you’re not alone.
These concerns have been raised with Google multiple times, but people seem comfortable enough with the service that they continue to log in with their accounts on Chrome and Google.com every day. At the very least, Google is upfront about what they do with user data, and provides a clear explanation on how its use can benefit customers.
How to enable activity auto-delete on Google
After many requests, Google finally released a new feature that automatically deletes a user’s activity data after a set period time. The company says your data is only used by them for the time you specify before being purged from its systems. At the moment, the only two options for time limits are 3 and 18 months.
Google claims this system does change the way some of its features like recommendations work. This is because Google is now only using more recent data from you without factoring in older data.
A longer time frame of data collection does have the added bonus of providing more accurate recommendations and suggestions, but this new method ultimately does a good deal more to protect user data than previous. Plus, you get to stay signed in!
To access this new feature, go to your Activity controls and log in with your Google account. From here, you’ll see the option to set your account’s memory to 3 months or 18 months, as we mentioned above.
Once set, the information stored beyond the parameters you set will be purged and rotated in favor of new data. This creates a revolving circle of recommendations and targeted content that stays squarely within the parameters you set. This privacy setting will likely put security-minded folks at ease with their Google usage.
Keep in mind this new feature isn’t available on all platforms just yet, but we still encourage you to check and refresh often to see if it’s shown up on your device.