When using Google products like search, YouTube, and Maps, your data is collected and stored by Google. Have you ever wondered what they do with this information or if you can access it? Should you be concerned?

Google is in the data business. Although you can use their services at no cost, the price you pay is giving Google your data if you use their products – where you’ve searched, what you’ve watched, how long you remain on a site, which links you click. Here’s how you can find this data, called Google My Activity, and choose how much and for how long the company keeps your online activity information.

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    Google records almost everything you do with apps, websites, and other services connected to your Google account. This information is compiled and saved in an online profile called “My Activity.”

    In the next sections, we’ll explain what “Google My Activity” is and how you can use the tool to control Google’s data collection activity.

    What Is Google My Activity?

    Think of your hospital medical records for a second. It usually contains information about your hospital visits and admission; habits and allergies; medication history; test results; past and present diagnosis; etc. The more information a hospital has about your medical history and habits, the better and faster the doctor is able to diagnose and treat you.

    This is akin to the purpose of Google My Activity. It’s a record of your online activities on Google and interactions with its services.

    Google search bar on a smartphone

    Google My Activity (or My Activity, for short) is the archive of your Google data. It’s also a tool that lets you view and manage data that Google collects when you use its products and services. As Google puts it, My Activity is designed to “put you in control of your data.”

    With My Activity, you can scrutinize how much (or little?) of your information and online activities Google may access.

    Before we show you how to access the My Activity utility, and how to use it to manage your data, let’s have a look at some of the information Google collects each time you use any of its products and services.

    What Data Does Google Collect?

    Google collects data for several reasons. However, the major purpose of data collection is to improve its services and provide a personalized experience (customized ads and search results, for example). You can learn more about why Google collects data on its Privacy Policy page.

    The information Google collects when you use its services include, but not limited to, the following:

    • Things you search for (on Google and YouTube).
    • Videos you watch.
    • Ads that you view or click.
    • Location information and history (places you visit and places you’ve been).
    • Tools that you use to access Google’s services (browser information, apps, devices, etc.)
    • Websites you visit.

    These information are usually grouped into three categories. Understanding this data segmentation will help you understand how to navigate the Google My Activity page and manage your data.

    1. Web and App Activity: Here, you’ll find your Google Search history, browsing history on Google Chrome, and websites you visit on other applications connected to your Google account. There’s more: audio recordings of your voice searches (on Google Maps and Google Search), map navigations, as well as your interactions with Google Assistant are also saved in this category.

    Google web and app activity

    Other information saved on this page include your IP address, ads you click, and things you purchase on an advertiser’s website. If you use an Android device, Google will save information about your phone (battery level, installed applications, system errors, etc.) in this section of the My Activity page.

    2. YouTube History: This section houses your YouTube activities including the videos you search for on YouTube, videos that you watch, the date and time you watched these videos, as well as the devices used to watch them.

    YouTube history

    3. Location History: If you use an Android device with location services enabled, Google will save the places you visit, even when you aren’t using a Google service. For iOS devices, Google collects your location (in real-time) via the dedicated Google app.

    Google locatoin history

    For example, disabling YouTube History means you’ll no longer get suggestions when you search for videos. Likewise, YouTube will stop recommending videos it thinks you might like.

    When you turn off Location History, Google will stop sending you tips about your commute (in Maps), neither will you receive recommendations and ads about places you’ve been/visited.

    Discover and Control Your Online Activity Data

    You can access the Google My Activity utility on your mobile devices and computer. Follow the steps listed below to learn how to view and manage your data via Google My Activity on Android, iOS, and PC.

    Use Google My Activity on PC

    1. Launch your preferred web browser and visit the Google My Activity page (or type myactivity.google.com into your browser’s URL).

    You may be required to sign into your Google account if you haven’t done so already.

    2. You’ll find the aforementioned categories (Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History) at the top of the My Activity dashboard.

    the My Google Activity pane

    Scroll to the bottom of the dashboard and you’ll find an overview of all recently-used Google apps and services—Maps, Google search history, and websites you visit.

    Click the three-dot menu icon and select Details to learn more about the activity/item.

    how to search and check your google online activity

    Otherwise, click Delete to remove it (permanently) from Google’s database.

    On the Item details page, you’ll find precise information about the activity.

    Search for your Google online activity

    Say you searched for “Best Pet Stores in New York” on Google, the Item details page will reveal the exact date and time you performed the search, the device you used, and more.

    Want to Stop Google from Collecting Your Data? Here’s What To Do

    As mentioned earlier, you can also use the My Activity tool to limit Google’s data collection or put an end to it entirely. All you have to do is disable data collection for all three categories—Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History.

    Click the hamburger menu icon at the top-left corner and select Activity controls.

    Activity controls for Google My Activity

    Go through the data options on the page and toggle each of them off.

    Web & App Activity on Google My Activity

    To delete all previously-saved web activities, return to the My Activity homepage and tap the Delete drop-down button.

    [10-delete-google-activity.png]

    How to filter and delete information collected on Google My Activity

    Select the All time option in the Delete Activity window.

    delete activity pane

    Make sure you check the Select All box and click Next to proceed.

    how to select all Google products

    Set An Automatic Data Deletion Schedule

    Google provides an auto-delete option to erase your account data. Scroll to the data group and select Auto-delete.

    How to set up auto delete for Activity

    Choose from the Auto-delete options and click Next to proceed. Google only allows users to auto-delete data older than 3, 18, or 36 months.

    you can choose from among many auto delete options

    Use Google My Activity on Android

    If you use an Android-powered smartphone or table, here’s what you need to do.

    1. Go to Settings and select Google.

    Go to Settings and Select Google

    2. Tap the Manage your Google Account button.

    Where to find the place to manage your Google account

    3. Go to the Data & personalization tab and select Manage your activity controls.

    Data and personalization tab on Google's manage account profile

    That will launch the Activity control page where you can access the data saved by Google across all services you’ve used

    Use Google My Activity on iOS

    You can also access the My Activity utility on your iPhone and iPad using the Google app.

    1. Launch the Google app and tap the profile icon at the top-right corner.

    another way to access your information collected by Google

    2. Tap the Manage your Google Account button.

    tap Manage your account

    3. Select Personal info & privacy.

    Go to Personal info and privacy

    4. Scroll to the Manage your Google activity section and select Activity controls.

    Activity controls are under Personal info and privacy

    You’ll be able to manage data saved in your Google account on the resulting page.

    a smartphone with Googles search bar visible

    Why Should You Care About the Data Google Collects on Your Activities?

    You’ve probably had your Google account(s) for years. It only makes sense to know how much data you’re providing Google, what it knows about you, and how it’s handling your information. Right?

    Interestingly, Google is transparent about its data collection process and practices. Even better, Google hands you (and a billion of other users) the meaningful choice around your data. You can opt in and out of all varieties of data collection at any time; you’re in the driver’s seat of your data.

    Although saving your account’s activity will help Google improve and personalize your experience, it can get a bit creepy annoying sometimes. Say you made a search on “how to diaper a baby” on Google or YouTube, you’re bound to start seeing unending ads from different diaper brands on every app or website you visit.

    If you aren’t happy with the amount of personal information that Google collects, or how your data is being used to deliver targeted ads to you, the My Activity tool is at your disposal. Use it to secure your data and protect your online privacy.

    What Happens When You Delete or Disable Google’s Data Collection Features?

    For every Google account, Google automatically collects these information (and more) by default. However, you have the liberty to limit data collection or stop it entirely. So if you’d rather not have Google save your information in its database, you can delete your online activity history from the My Activity page. But what happens when you do so?

    Well, there’s really no severe consequence attached to denying Google access to your data. You’ll enjoy the basic features of Google’s services just like every other user. However, you’ll lose access to personalized features, ads, and recommendations.

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