Gmail. YouTube. Drive. Google Maps. Search. Waze. Chrome. reCAPTCHA. Android. What do all these companies have in common?
You likely already know — they’re all owned by Google. For the last couple of years, Google has styled itself as Alphabet. When you see the full list of companies they own, you’ll understand why this name change makes sense.
From A to Z, Google is involved in so many aspects of our daily lives. And while they may not dominate the social media space like Facebook, they’re everywhere else.
Fortunately, Google is transparent about the data they collect, where it’s stored, and how you can delete it. This means you can more or less delete what Google knows about you.
In this article, let’s walk through the major Google platforms to give you the best online privacy.
How to Protect Your Internet Privacy
It’s much more effective to prevent Google from getting their hands on your data than to erase it afterward. Simply put, you don’t always have to use Google under your account and name.
For most of your web browsing, it’s much safer to use Chrome or other browsers in incognito mode. At the same time, use a VPN, whether you use incognito mode or not. It protects your browsing from snooping eyes by hiding your IP and encrypting your connection. It stops Google from gathering more data on you as well.
Most people have already discovered the perks of using a VPN and got a subscription. If you haven’t, a VPN free trial is all you need to get started.
Take a Look at Your Google Data
You can see all the data Google has on you by visiting your Google account dashboard. After signing in, navigate to your account history.
You’ll see the following sections:
- Web and App History
- Voice and Audio Activity
- Device Information
- Location History
- YouTube History
Some of this stuff may be pretty interesting to you. You can see where you’ve been in location history, which is pretty cool, but it is also alarming that Google always has an eye on you.
Note: There is no magic button for deleting what Google has on you. If you want everything to be gone, you must repeat the following steps (below) for each of these sections. Likewise, you should also consider checking individual apps on all your devices to make sure all the data is truly gone and not stored somewhere else.
How to Delete Google History
Once you know that you want everything gone for good, follow these steps.
- Go to the Google history page.
- Select the individual data section (i.e., Web and App history, or YouTube history)
- Click the 3-dot menu button on the top right corner of your page.
- Click “Delete Options”
- Choose the time frame. You can customize for today, yesterday, or choose advanced for more extended periods. This is where you can find “All Time.”
- After selecting “All Time,” click Delete.
- Repeat for the remaining sections mentioned above.
- Check all Google-owned apps and delete them from within the app if any data remains.
Did You Really Do Everything to Stay Safe?
Thanks to privacy legislation like the EU’s GDPR and other acts, you can be relatively confident that Google will delete your data. If they fail to do so after a request, they are liable for litigation. However, Google stores some of your data as long as you have an account. You can learn more about that here.
Once you delete your data, it’s easy to accumulate some again. You can take steps to make things more private, like frequently erasing your browsing history and cache and blocking third-party cookies. Keep in mind that this can negatively impact your online experience.
For this reason, some IT experts now advocate a multi-browser web strategy. It means you use one browser for personal activities like financial transactions, a second one for social media, and another for other activities. The point is to limit the kinds of information Google and other parties can collect on you in the first place.
Combining this with a VPN and incognito mode or a privacy-centric browser like Brave makes browsing as private as it can get for the average person.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of how you feel about Google, it makes sense to erase your data. Even if you’re not worried about the staggering amounts of information they have collected about you, the other risk comes from cybercriminals. Hackers who breach Google accounts can steal your identity or commit different types of fraud. Follow these steps routinely to delete your Google data as well as keep yourself and your privacy intact.