How to make Google automatically delete the data it stores about you [u]

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 17
Google has now begun to roll out its new feature that lets you limit how long it saves information about you. Here's how to use it.




Editor's note: we had a lot of requests to make a video for this, so we did.

As reported by AppleInsider, Google this month revealed a new feature which lets you specify that the company can only hold data about you for a certain amount of time. Now that the feature is rolling out to users, here are the steps you need to take -- and why you'd want to.

Just do this. Even if you couldn't care less what Google knows about you, at least step through this process because there's a chance it'll creep you out and you'll want to stop what you can.






For instance, when we worked through these steps ourselves, we saw that Google knows we're learning French. There it was, right there on our Mac, that a few minutes before we'd been using Duolingo on our iPhone.

Duolingo is a free education tool that's supported by ads so, presumably, it's using Google to deliver those ads and that's how it got recorded. That makes sense when you think it through, but seeing that listed in Google's database made our eyes go wide.

We've yet to see any ads for trips to Paris, but maybe it's waiting to see how long we keep this studying up.

There's no way for us to stop it knowing this information, and presumably using it, but there is now this way to stop it knowing the information for very long.

As of now, you can tell Google that you want it to keep its data about you for 3 months, 18 months or until you get around to deleting it manually. When you've set this, Google says that it immediately deletes any data that's already older than you chose. And Google says that it will never keep anything longer than that in the future.

Step by step

Go to myaccount.google.com -- even if you've never been there before, you're registered on it because you have a Gmail or other Google account. Log in, then click on Data & Personalization from the panel on the left.

We may get further options to automatically delete info, but for now, click on Web & App Activity on this screen
We may get further options to automatically delete info, but for now, click on Web & App Activity on this screen


Under Activity Controls, click on the arrow to the right of Web & App Activity.

From the screen that appears, choose Manage Activity, then click on Choose to delete automatically.

The next screen gives you the three options of when to delete -- 3 months, 18 months or only when you manually do it -- and explains why you might want to let Google have its way.

The argument is that by tracking your data, seeing what you do, Google is better able to get you the information you're after. That's true, but it's also true that 3 months is enough or Google wouldn't be willing to let you do this.

So it's up to you, but choose 3 months.

This is where it's creepy

Once you've clicked on Keep for 3 months and then on Next, Google asks you to confirm your choice. And this is where it lists some details of what you've been doing.

We book a lot of trains, says Google.
We book a lot of trains, says Google.


If that list doesn't make you want to delete your data on Google, click on Preview more and that will.

Click on Confirm and you're done.

Or at least, you're done for now. When AppleInsider reported on this then-forthcoming feature, we pointed out that Google's phrasing suggested that "there could be other areas within the Google account that could have similar deletion features applied."

Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.
mwhite
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    frantisekfrantisek Posts: 436member
    That is useful article. Bravo. But can you add screen where do you see that: "From the screen that appears, choose Manage Activity"

    I can not find anything like that in my language mutation. Is it possible that options vary by country?

    edited May 15 watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 34
    longpathlongpath Posts: 218member
    What does pausing the activity do? In your screenshot, voice & audio activity is paused, and so is device information. Is it more useful to pause all activity so it never winds up in Google's hands, or does paused mean they just aren't showing you the activity they track?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 34
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,445member
    Great article and very timely, tho the several references to "creepy" while describing a very useful new privacy-forward function of Google services didn't add to the story IMO.

    So you're learning French, and Google noting that in your private results that are never shared with outside parties is hardly rising to "creepy" level.
    Even assuming you someday see a (possibly useful) ad for some French destination on some page you visit doesn't make it creepy. It's an ad. An anonymized ad delivered to a re-settable advertising ID number. Know who else uses advertising ID numbers?

    But with all that said I think it's a great idea. I like having location data saved for a short period of time, and absolutely appreciate having recent history on web searches and YouTube. Used both of those histories in the past day AAMAF. For me 90 days would seem appropriate, tho I did have to refer to my location history for revisiting a customer's obscure field location this past weekend and restricting that may not have been long enough for that to still be there.

    BTW this doesn't replace the privacy controls that have long been offered by Google.
    You can still go into your account settings and delete in whole or part or even disable location and search histories, YouTube watch lists (Again used that today to find a particular lighting video I had seen a couple weeks ago for a product reference), timelines and device activities, and any other data points at any time you the account owner wishes. This new feature is just intended to make the process automatic, balancing the value to the user in having that data available in your Google account to deliver better services for you with IMHO the clear need to place limits on how long that data remains connected to you. I can't think of good reasons why anything longer than 18 months would still have any value to you as the user. It doesn't need to hang around.

    So I highly recommend everyone delete it automatically instead of remembering to do so periodically as I had been doing. I'm going to try 90 days, and can always change it to 18 months if I find I'm losing search value with the shorter time frame. 
    edited May 15 Carnage
  • Reply 4 of 34
    BeOS UserBeOS User Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Terrific article, very helpful.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 34
    mdmitrismdmitris Posts: 1member
    Where is the guarantee that google won't continue collecting the information even if you turn these things off?
    williamlondonmacseekerlostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 34
    riverkoriverko Posts: 63member
    frantisek said:
    That is useful article. Bravo. But can you add screen where do you see that: "From the screen that appears, choose Manage Activity"

    I can not find anything like that in my language mutation. Is it possible that options vary by country?

    yes, the screenshot flow where to click would be useful...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 34
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,445member
    mdmitris said:
    Where is the guarantee that google won't continue collecting the information even if you turn these things off?
    oh geez... Don't have a Google account and save yourself the tinfoil. I assume you don't have one now so for you it's a moot point. 
    edited May 15 chasmCarnage
  • Reply 8 of 34
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,997member
    gatorguy said:
    Great article and very timely, tho the several references to "creepy" while describing a very useful new privacy-forward function of Google services didn't add to the story IMO.

    So you're learning French, and Google noting that in your private results that are never shared with outside parties is hardly rising to "creepy" level.
    Even assuming you someday see a (possibly useful) ad for some French destination on some page you visit doesn't make it creepy. It's an ad. An anonymized ad delivered to a re-settable advertising ID number. Know who else uses advertising ID numbers?

    But with all that said I think it's a great idea. I like having location data saved for a short period of time, and absolutely appreciate having recent history on web searches and YouTube. Used both of those histories in the past day AAMAF. For me 90 days would seem appropriate, tho I did have to refer to my location history for revisiting a customer's obscure field location this past weekend and restricting that may not have been long enough for that to still be there.

    BTW this doesn't replace the privacy controls that have long been offered by Google.
    You can still go into your account settings and delete in whole or part or even disable location and search histories, YouTube watch lists (Again used that today to find a particular lighting video I had seen a couple weeks ago for a product reference), timelines and device activities, and any other data points at any time you the account owner wishes. This new feature is just intended to make the process automatic, balancing the value to the user in having that data available in your Google account to deliver better services for you with IMHO the clear need to place limits on how long that data remains connected to you. I can't think of good reasons why anything longer than 18 months would still have any value to you as the user. It doesn't need to hang around.

    So I highly recommend everyone delete it automatically instead of remembering to do so periodically as I had been doing. I'm going to try 90 days, and can always change it to 18 months if I find I'm losing search value with the shorter time frame. 
    I find DuckDuckGo’s search results to be quite satisfactory and they don’t retain any information about me or anyone else using their search service.
    williamlondonchasmdunksbakedbananasspock1234StrangeDayslostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 34
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,445member
    gatorguy said:
    Great article and very timely, tho the several references to "creepy" while describing a very useful new privacy-forward function of Google services didn't add to the story IMO.

    So you're learning French, and Google noting that in your private results that are never shared with outside parties is hardly rising to "creepy" level.
    Even assuming you someday see a (possibly useful) ad for some French destination on some page you visit doesn't make it creepy. It's an ad. An anonymized ad delivered to a re-settable advertising ID number. Know who else uses advertising ID numbers?

    But with all that said I think it's a great idea. I like having location data saved for a short period of time, and absolutely appreciate having recent history on web searches and YouTube. Used both of those histories in the past day AAMAF. For me 90 days would seem appropriate, tho I did have to refer to my location history for revisiting a customer's obscure field location this past weekend and restricting that may not have been long enough for that to still be there.

    BTW this doesn't replace the privacy controls that have long been offered by Google.
    You can still go into your account settings and delete in whole or part or even disable location and search histories, YouTube watch lists (Again used that today to find a particular lighting video I had seen a couple weeks ago for a product reference), timelines and device activities, and any other data points at any time you the account owner wishes. This new feature is just intended to make the process automatic, balancing the value to the user in having that data available in your Google account to deliver better services for you with IMHO the clear need to place limits on how long that data remains connected to you. I can't think of good reasons why anything longer than 18 months would still have any value to you as the user. It doesn't need to hang around.

    So I highly recommend everyone delete it automatically instead of remembering to do so periodically as I had been doing. I'm going to try 90 days, and can always change it to 18 months if I find I'm losing search value with the shorter time frame. 
    I find DuckDuckGo’s search results to be quite satisfactory and they don’t retain any information about me or anyone else using their search service.
    I have used DDG on a few occasions and for me the results are not nearly as satisfactory. No doubt the difference is Google better understands what I'm actually searching for based on past results. It's a balancing act with faster and more pertinent results compared to "Hey we don't track you".

    That "search data" benefits me as much as it does Google IMO. I don't worry that Google is going to sell it or not properly protect it either.
    edited May 15
  • Reply 10 of 34
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,997member
    gatorguy said:
    gatorguy said:
    Great article and very timely, tho the several references to "creepy" while describing a very useful new privacy-forward function of Google services didn't add to the story IMO.

    So you're learning French, and Google noting that in your private results that are never shared with outside parties is hardly rising to "creepy" level.
    Even assuming you someday see a (possibly useful) ad for some French destination on some page you visit doesn't make it creepy. It's an ad. An anonymized ad delivered to a re-settable advertising ID number. Know who else uses advertising ID numbers?

    But with all that said I think it's a great idea. I like having location data saved for a short period of time, and absolutely appreciate having recent history on web searches and YouTube. Used both of those histories in the past day AAMAF. For me 90 days would seem appropriate, tho I did have to refer to my location history for revisiting a customer's obscure field location this past weekend and restricting that may not have been long enough for that to still be there.

    BTW this doesn't replace the privacy controls that have long been offered by Google.
    You can still go into your account settings and delete in whole or part or even disable location and search histories, YouTube watch lists (Again used that today to find a particular lighting video I had seen a couple weeks ago for a product reference), timelines and device activities, and any other data points at any time you the account owner wishes. This new feature is just intended to make the process automatic, balancing the value to the user in having that data available in your Google account to deliver better services for you with IMHO the clear need to place limits on how long that data remains connected to you. I can't think of good reasons why anything longer than 18 months would still have any value to you as the user. It doesn't need to hang around.

    So I highly recommend everyone delete it automatically instead of remembering to do so periodically as I had been doing. I'm going to try 90 days, and can always change it to 18 months if I find I'm losing search value with the shorter time frame. 
    I find DuckDuckGo’s search results to be quite satisfactory and they don’t retain any information about me or anyone else using their search service.
    I have used DDG on a few occasions and for me the results are not nearly as satisfactory. No doubt the difference is Google better understands what I'm actually searching for based on past results. It's a balancing act with faster and more pertinent results compared to "Hey we don't track you".

    That "search data" benefits me as much as it does Google IMO. I don't worry that Google is going to sell it or not properly protect it either.
    Both approaches are fine. To their credit, they are finally being more forthcoming with the fact that they rely on mass data collection and analysis for their business and are finally making that more clear to their users.
    chasmspock1234
  • Reply 11 of 34
    rivertriprivertrip Posts: 113member
    longpath said:
    What does pausing the activity do? In your screenshot, voice & audio activity is paused, and so is device information. Is it more useful to pause all activity so it never winds up in Google's hands, or does paused mean they just aren't showing you the activity they track?
    Since I paused all of my activity, not just for web and apps, Google says it has no records for anything I have done.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 34
    rivertrip said:
    longpath said:
    What does pausing the activity do? In your screenshot, voice & audio activity is paused, and so is device information. Is it more useful to pause all activity so it never winds up in Google's hands, or does paused mean they just aren't showing you the activity they track?
    Since I paused all of my activity, not just for web and apps, Google says it has no records for anything I have done.

    Same. I’ve has it paused for a while.  It hasn’t effected the quality of my searches that I have noticed.  I did try DDG but the results were not that great.  I’m surprised that Apple haven’t entered the search market. But maybe they have an agreement with Google preventing it. 
  • Reply 13 of 34
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,445member
    rivertrip said:
    longpath said:
    What does pausing the activity do? In your screenshot, voice & audio activity is paused, and so is device information. Is it more useful to pause all activity so it never winds up in Google's hands, or does paused mean they just aren't showing you the activity they track?
    Since I paused all of my activity, not just for web and apps, Google says it has no records for anything I have done.

    Same. I’ve has it paused for a while.  It hasn’t effected the quality of my searches that I have noticed.  I did try DDG but the results were not that great.  I’m surprised that Apple haven’t entered the search market. But maybe they have an agreement with Google preventing it. 
    A few billion dollars tends to do that
  • Reply 14 of 34
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,240member
    Same. I’ve has it paused for a while.  It hasn’t effected the quality of my searches that I have noticed.  I did try DDG but the results were not that great.
    Same. I have no issues with Duck Duck Go and now use it exclusively on all my devices.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 34
    kevin keekevin kee Posts: 1,000member
    Google has now begun to roll out its new feature that lets you limit how long it saves information about you.


    How about make a guarantee not to sneakily use said save information about me in the first place? I don't care if Google have my information in their server as long as it remains private even to them.
    spock1234StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 34
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,825member
    Even easier to have Google delete your data...just don't use their products! Problem solved!
    MplsPwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 34
    irelandireland Posts: 17,570member
    I’ve been using DuckDuck 🦆 for a few years now. The main google products I use are Google translate and YouTube.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 34
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,445member
    kevin kee said:
    Google has now begun to roll out its new feature that lets you limit how long it saves information about you.


    How about make a guarantee not to sneakily use said save information about me in the first place? I don't care if Google have my information in their server as long as it remains private even to them.
    Do you have a Google account?
  • Reply 19 of 34
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,402member
    gatorguy said:
    I have used DDG on a few occasions and for me the results are not nearly as satisfactory. No doubt the difference is Google better understands what I'm actually searching for based on past results. It's a balancing act with faster and more pertinent results compared to "Hey we don't track you".


    That "search data" benefits me as much as it does Google IMO. I don't worry that Google is going to sell it or not properly protect it either.
    You know what will help you get better search results on search engines that don't store a history about you? Better articulation on what you're "actually" searching for. This approach works very well for me on every search engine.

    As for "I don't worry that Google is going to sell it or not properly protect [my search history] either," I can only say this: it's all fun and games until you start searching for methods of poisoning and how to bury a body ... :D
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 34
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 571member
    Both types of search engines (trackers, non-trackers) are welcome in a free market. In fact everything is welcome in a free market. Caveat Emptor. Websites like this help the market decide what it wants. Freeveat Speechor.
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