It’s not something you normally think about – remembering to go in and clear the data Google stores on you. Now Google has options to make your data disappear automatically after a set time. With these new options, once you set it – you can forget it!
I’ve also included how to take the Google privacy checkup. Just scroll to the end if you want to skip the auto-delete options.
Is setting up auto-deleting right for you?
- If you are concerned about privacy and Google storing your digital footprint across applications like searches, voice requests, maps and YouTube, consider taking these steps.
- If you like the personalized recommendations that Google assistant analytics makes for you, like products and ad choices, your interests probably have changed over time. What you were interested in last month, or last year, may no longer be relevant. Why should your Google searches, say for “hula hoops,” and YouTube videos (like, how to use that InstaPot you donated months ago), be stored for all eternity! Clear them out so Google has an up-to-date picture of your current interests.
I’ve investigated these new “abracadabra” options to auto-delete your data, and I recommend you take the time to check them out.
What you are going to do: Set up Google to automatically delete data related to your Google searches, including data searches made on Google.com, voice requests made with Google Assistant, destinations that you looked up on Maps and searches for Apps in Google’s Play Store..
Auto-delete your search history
I know. It looks like a lot of steps. But remember, it’s one and done! Set it and forget. Read through all the steps, then give it a try. Still find it daunting? OLLI offers one-on-one tech help by the savvy OLLI Tech Squad volunteers.
- Go to this website which is the command center for you Google activity. https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity .
- If you are already logged into Google, you will see the My Activity screen with a view of your activity. Scroll down to see what Google has been storing about you.
- If you are not logged into Google, you will first get the sign in screen. Sign in with your Google login and password, then you will see the My Activity
- About the screen shots – these screens were taken from a desktop and may be slightly different on small devices like Android phones or iPhones. The Google functions work the same. For a sample smart phone screen, see the screens toward the end of the document. It’s usually easier to review settings on a larger device.
- On the left-hand side of the My Activity screen, click on Activity Controls.
On this screen, look for Web & App Activity. Click Manage Activity.
- Next, look for the icon of a calendar. Click on Choose to delete automatically.
A window opens which gives you choices – Keep for 18 months, then delete automatically, or Keep for 3 months, then delete automatically. Which option you choose is your personal preference. Click the button to the right of the option you want. Then, click Next.
You will get a confirmation screen. Click Next to continue.
Note – the screens above are from a Windows desktop. Small devices like Android phones or iPads may look different, but the options will be there. For more customized information by platform, to go Google help, and choose click your application, https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/54068?hl=en&co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&oco=0
Auto-delete your YouTube history
Google says that your YouTube History includes the YouTube videos you watch and the things you search for. The activity you keep is used to improve your experience, like reminding you what you’ve watched, giving you better recommendations, and suggesting creators you might like.
If you don’t want Google to remember your history, follow these steps which are very similar to the ones above.
- From the My Activity main menu, step 1 above, click on Activity Controls. Scroll down until you find the section on YouTube History. Click Manage Activity.
On the next screen, look for the calendar icon. Click on Choose to delete automatically. Follow the same steps as #3 above.
Auto-delete your location history
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You are a pro!
Next, let’s set up auto-delete of your location history.
- On the My Activity screen, click Activity controls. Scroll down until you see Location history. Click Manage Activity.
- On the next page, find the “gear” or settings. Click the gear. A small window pops up. Click the option – Automatically delete location history. You can set data to self-delete after three months or 18 months.
“Wait! I don’t want Google to create a record of my location history at all!”
There’s a toggle button for that. On the My Activity page, click Activity controls and scroll to Location history. Turn the toggle to the off position. The toggle will be grey, like the screen example, and the message will say Location History is paused.
Take the Google Privacy Checkup
Not interested in auto-deleting? Go to your Google account and look for Data and Personalization from the main menu. Find – Take the Privacy Checkup. Click on Get started and walk through the options.
To get to your Google account, open your preferred browser, for example Chrome. Or, go to any Google app. If you are logged in you will see your round, Google account icon in the upper right-hand corner. If you don’t see that, go to your account to login – https://myaccount.google.com/
Once you are logged in, click on your account icon and choose – Manage your Google account.
Small device screen example
Here is an example of a Google account on a smaller device. You will see the same options but they may be presented a bit differently. You can get to your Google account on your devices from any Google application by clicking on the round account icon on the upper right-hand side.
Swipe over and tap on Data & Personalization. Scroll down to get to the Privacy Checkup and Activity Controls options mentioned above.
Since privacy settings can get complex, they are best viewed on a larger device.
The challenge! Take advantage of Google’s auto-delete tools and the privacy checkup. Practically, I cannot think of any benefit to letting Google keep a history of my online activity going way back.
Try it today – even “disappearing” small traces of your digital footprint might just make your day and keep you a tiny bit safer.
How did you do?
Need help? Want to know about privacy options for your devices? OLLI offers one-on-one tech assistance with the savvy volunteers of the Tech Squad. (Check your OLLI catalog or call the office.)
Diane White, MA, PMP, earned advanced degrees in information technologies from George Washington University and education from USF. She has been managing projects for over 25 years in the information technology and telecommunications industries. She joined OLLI-USF in 2008 and has taken OLLI courses in art, art appreciation, architecture, music, great books, science, nature, literature, and leadership. She is a member of OLI’s Tech Squad and teaches a variety of technology courses.