Have You Restricted Your Google History?

The internet and search engine giant, Google, has proliferated the digital world such that it has become difficult to sidestep their persistent presence. Admittedly, we all continue to use google products packaged in different forms. From google chrome to maps and a plethora of other dependent and integrated apps, Google has become the giant David can no longer sling down. While other search providers such as Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, or Baidu exist, Google is by far the most used search engine. 

Google’s dominance is by no chance breaking news. By now, we all know that Google collects user data for different purposes including marketing and “improvement” of service delivery. The caveat is that most of us do not know that we can opt-out of wanton data collection and retention. while Google will continue to footprint our activities in many ways as aided by wide cross-platform outreach, doing what we can with what we have can certainly go a long way toward limiting data collection. For a start, check the many instances your data may be lingering online here

Using a few settings within your Google profile, you can always turn off attributes such as history, location, and web and app activity. These aspects are the bane of online footprinting that allows google to store our data for whatever use. Coincidentally, these are the holy grails attackers will initially use for nefarious purposes. 

By navigating to history.google.com while logged into your google account, you can determine whether you have any of these attributes turned on. 

From the above image, if the web and app activity is turned on, even your most recent search on google will be shown directly below the page. 

This kind of ‘logging’ may not seem harmful at all. But the fact that they are stored and associated with your account means that they present a permanent record of what you have been doing online. If I wanted to determine if an individual has been watching YouTube all day long, including when they were watching, I would simply inspect their YouTube history. 

Anybody with physical access to your device or google account could fish these details about your history to build a profile, possibly for further action. These are just some of the reasons you may want to turn off the tracking attributes so that while you sleep at night, you won’t have to cling to your laptop to prevent your sibling from snooping around your ‘clean’ browsing habits. 

To disable these attributes, simply turn off the settings by clicking on any of the attributes. You will access a page similar to the one shown below. Note the different options to enable flexible management of your profile. You may, for example, turn on autodelete so that your account automatically cleans itself after a defined period of time. 

To turn off the said settings, you will need to follow the screen instructions step by step as shown below.

You will see a confirmation dialog box once you have completed the process. You can also proceed to delete any previous activity pertaining to your account as shown below. 

On fully disabling history, location, and web and app activity, your history settings page will look like the picture below. Only then can you be sure that your google account has taken a break from tracking every of your single click, search, or view. 

While we may argue that turning off these features is pointless in an age where Google will get almost every piece of information it wants through other avenues, it will help reduce the intensity with which they do it. On turning off these settings, you may, for instance, notice a reduced frequency of targeted ads, suggestions, and location tagging to improve your safety in the online environment. 

Turning these settings on or off will nonetheless depend on your daily needs. For example, you may want to leave your YouTube history on to track your viewing tendencies. The trick is to know what works best for you and at what times. 

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