Google probably knows you better than your closest friends and family. With every search you make or YouTube video you watch, the search giant is quietly collecting information for a personalized profile it uses to serve you targeted ads. But a new tool called My Activity makes it easier than ever to see what information Google is stockpiling about you — and delete things you would rather it forget. Here's what you need to know about this new tool and how it can help you manage your privacy.
What exactly is My Activity?
It's basically a time line that shows you what Google has saved about your online activities going back as far as Google has been tracking them. You can find it by going to https://myactivity.google.com. There you'll find a big chronological list of things you've done using Google's services — the searches you've made, videos you've watched on YouTube, and so on. You can even search through the data trove to look up a specific record or activity Google has saved — like maybe the time you searched for a home remedy for plantar warts — or filter the time line by date or type of activity.
I can delete things?
Yes, and it's pretty simple. First, you need to find the record you want to delete, which is made easy with the search bar at the top of the page. From there you can open a little menu by clicking on the three vertical dots on the right end of the record. Select the delete option on that menu, and Google will forget it.
What if I want Google to stop tracking this sort of data?
If so, you can "pause" Google's data collection whenever you want. To lock things down, head to https://myaccount.google.com/activitycontrols. From there, you can tell Google to stop saving information about things such as your searches, location history and YouTube watching habits.
But if looking back through your My Activity time line has you a little paranoid, it's probably also worth running through Google's Privacy Checkup. That feature, which can be found at https://myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup/, uses a simple interface to not only help you manage what data is being saved by Google, but also things like what information about you may be public through services like Google+.