Google's new Activity Tool lets you view, edit and delete all the information Google has collected about you.
If you have a Google account (if you use Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, etc. then you have an account) you can now manage all the information Google has collected about you - websites you've visited, things you've searched for, YouTube videos you've watched, and so on. The My Activity tool shows you exactly what Google knows about you while giving you tools to review, edit and delete any data that Google has collected about you when you use Google services such as Google Search, YouTube, Android, etc.
In addition to managing data, the My Activity privacy tool lets you easily stop and re-start tracking for any of the services listed - if you want to see the YouTube videos you've watched but don't want your Chrome search history saved, now you can do it all from one place.
Editing and deleting the collected data is fairly straightforward - using the three dot menu allows you to edit or delete entries individually or all at once. To edit individual items, use the three dot menu next to the listing. For bulk editing, use the three dot menu in the upper right corner. The search box let's you look for specific items or filter searches by date or Google product.
You can now also opt out in or out of any product Google uses to track your activities in one place: Google Activity Controls.
While you're logged in to your account settings, take a few minutes and go through the Privacy Checkup (the link is at the bottom of the My Activity page) - you never know, you might find something you need to change.
Three things worth noting:
- My Activity settings shows data for the device you're currently using.
- If you use Google products across multiple devices and turn off tracking for a service, the data won't be available across all your devices. For example, if you use Google Chrome and sync your bookmarks across devices or platforms, stopping it will prevent your bookmarks from being synchronized.
- There are new ad preferences in the My Activity tool. Historically, Google has used the data it collects about you to display ads across Google products by using cookies. Google is expanding that approach, using behavioral information to display ads beyond Google products to the wider internet - similar to how Facebook and other third party sites track user's usage across the internet. What's different about Google is that you can opt-in or opt-out of personalized ads. It's a choice between seeing ads based on your interests (as determined by the data Google collects about your activities) or ads not based on the data Google collects. Of course, using Ad and Privacy blocking add-ons will bypass most, if not all, tracking. All in all a fairly useful tool - if you want to see what Google knows about you, head over and have a look.
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