UPDATE (May 1, 2019): A Major New Privacy-Positive Move by Google
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Since posting The Google Page That Google Haters Don’t Want You to Know About last week, I’ve received a bunch of messages from readers asking for help using Google’s “My Activity” page to control, inspect, and/or delete their data on Google.
The My Activity portal is quite comprehensive and can be used in many different ways, but to get you started I’ll briefly outline how to use My Activity to delete activity data.
Some words of warning, however. You cannot revoke deletions once they’ve been made, and deleting your data on Google can negatively affect how well those services will perform for you going forward, since you’ll be moving back toward “generic” interactions, rather than customized ones. So do think carefully before performing broad deletions! (I know that I’d be lost without my YouTube watch history, for example …)
OK, let’s get started.
First, go to:
If you’re not logged into a Google account, do so now. Once you’re logged in, you can use the standard account switcher (clicking on the picture or letter at the page upper right) to change accounts.
What you should now see is a reverse chronological list of your activity when logged into that Google account, which you can scroll down starting with Today and working backwards.
If you click on the three vertical dots (henceforth, “the dots”) at a Google service type entry (e.g. Search), you can choose to expand the detailed entries for that level for that date, or delete those entries. If you click on the dots on the Today bar itself, you can choose to delete ALL of the activity entries for Today.
The real power of the My Activity interface comes into play when you click in the upper Search/Filter “by date & product” area.
After you’ve done this, you can activate the search bar by clicking in the bar and typing something, or (my personal preference) by unchecking “All products” further down.
Now you can search for activity entries filtered by product type and/or date as you’ve specified. To avoid over-deletion, I strongly recommend not selecting many product types at the same time! (When you click on specific products, the “All products” entry will automatically be unchecked.)
Once you’ve selected at least one specific product type, the Search bar will activate and the “perform this search” magnifying glass icon at the right of the bar will turn dark blue.
You can type queries into the bar to find specific entries, or you can just click on the magnifying glass without a query to list all entries for the selected Google products. If you haven’t changed the “Filter by date” settings at the top to narrow down the dates, the search will cover the default “All time” activity list for those products.
The scrollable page that results from such queries is similar in structure to what you saw for the earlier page that started with Today, and you can interact with it to get more details or delete entries in the same ways.
But look again at the top Search bar now. If you click on the dots at the right of that white Search bar that appears after a query, you’ll see that you now have a “Delete results” option.
You wanted power over your data on Google? Well, you’ve got it. Because if you click “Delete results” it will remove EVERY activity result from that query (or from an empty query entry that lists all results for the specified products). That can mean deleting every activity result from all of the selected products, going back to the relative dawn of time.
My Activity gives you extraordinary power over what sorts of activity data will be collected for your Google accounts, and as we’ve seen the ability to delete data using a variety of parameters and searches. It’s quite a technological work of art.
But again, be careful before invoking these powers. Remember, you can’t undo My Activity deletions. Or to use an old film analogy that many of you might recognize, if you’re going to use powerful incantations like “Klaatu barada nikto” — make damned sure that you pronounce them correctly!