Article by Joel Howell Newsletter Editorial BoardEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ever wondered how to delete your search history from the Google servers? Did you know that every search you’ve ever performed is stored on the Google servers? This information is cross-linked to search data from other websites including YouTube, Google Maps, and other Google services you use. With all of this information, Google is able to know more about you than your closest friends. Google uses this information for advertising purposes and regularly provides user information to the government. However, there are steps you can, and should, take to secure your information. Here is the protocol, with thanks and a tip of the hat to Kim Komando.
You first must identify what is in your Google history. By going to https://google.com/history and signing in with your Google account information, you can access a list of everything you’ve ever searched for with Google. (What do you mean, you don’t have a Google account? If so, better get one.) Even if you don’t have a Google account or never sign into your Google account, Google is still tracking your history. Google is able to record your information even if you are not signed into any account by using a cookie stored in your browser.
Once you get to your history, you can browse through your searches and find them by day or by Google service. Google does show personalized search trends, which you may find interesting. To delete any unwanted search terms, click the checkbox next to the term and click the Remove items button. There is no limit to the number of terms you can delete at a time. If you want to delete all of the terms on the list, simply click the checkbox next to the Remove item button and everything on the list will be selected.
Once you remove the selected terms, click the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of the page and choose Settings. You will then have the option to turn off your Web history. This means Google will not be allowed to record your search terms in the future.
That doesn’t mean that your information is really gone. Google will still have access to your deleted search term history for the purposes of audits and other internal uses. However, Google will no longer use your information for targeted ads or to customize your search results. After eighteen months Google will partially anonymize the data, so it will no longer be associated with you.
If you are not signed into a Google account and the search terms are being stored through cookies, the history can still be removed. If you are only deleting your cookies, then Google will just start recording new information. To stop Google from recording your information completely visit www.google.com/history/optout to opt out completely.
Google isn’t the only danger to your privacy. You should also make sure your computer has updated security software; create strong passwords; and consider private browsing if you don’t want your Web activities recorded.
If you are still concerned about stored information, it might be better to avoid Google services all together. However, YouTube could be pretty difficult to skip, since there is really no alternative. There are other choices for most other Google services that do take your privacy seriously.
There are plenty of search sites that can be just as good as Google. Some are even capable of doing the job better and faster and take privacy more seriously than Google. Here are some options to consider:
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