GOOGLE is storing a terrifyingly detailed record of your web browsing habits and day-to-day life. But did you know there’s a way to view all the little secrets it knows about you – and delete the bits that you want to banish forever?
You can tweak your settings to get more control over what the technology giant tracks about you in the future, too.
It probably comes as little surprise that you can view the entirety of your web history.
But you may be more surprised to discover that if you’ve been signed in to your Gmail account on someone else’s phone or laptop, any of their searches will be saved too.
There’s also your Google Maps searches, your exact location data and any YouTube clips you’ve been watching.
What does Google know about me?
Google tracks an awful lot of data related to you.
For starters, it tracks your search and browsing history. But it also creates a private map of where you go with your signed-in devices, which can be tracked through a portal called “My Activity”.
The tech giant says it collects this for improved map searches, commuting routes “and more”.
On top of this, if you use an Android phone, your contacts, calendars and apps will all be stored in this hub too.
Not freaked out yet?
Google also stores brief audio recordings of your voice made using the microphone on your gadget if it thinks you were speaking to its digital assistant.
Plus, there’s your YouTube browsing history and personalised ads.
Essentially, the search giant creates a personality profile based on what you’ve been up to – and uses this to send your specific adverts.
How to view exactly what Google knows about you
First, you’ll need to be signed into your Gmail or Google account.
Once you’ve done that, type “history.google.com/history” into your web browser.
You’ll be taken to a hub which contains your entire digital footprint, so be careful, it could make for some grim reading.
This includes Maps searches and YouTube videos you’ve watched.
How to view what web activity Google stores
Click on “Activity Controls “on the left-hand side of the page.
Under “Web and App Activity”, click “Manage Activity”.
If Google’s keeping tabs on you, there should be a stream of web pages and map searches that show up in chronological order.
You can randomly delete searches, or select all the searches to make them disappear (we explain how further down).
Google knows exactly what phone you’re using
If you’ve had your Gmail account for some time, it’s likely you’ve upgraded phones along the way.
There’s a section which tells you what gizmos you’ve been using while searching the web.
You can have a look to see if any redundant ones are being used.
GOOGLE TIPS How to unsend a message on Gmail – essential tips to reclaim those embarassing email blunders
It’s a useful tool to see if anyone has your email account signed in on your phone.
You can access this using the “Sign-in & security” tab.
Scroll down to “Device activity & notifications”.
Here you’ll find “Recently Used Devices”, telling you when they were last used to access your account.
How to stop Google storing your activity
It is possible to stop Google from storing so much info in the future.
Go back to “Activity controls” and under “Web & App activity” you should see a blue toggle.
Switch it off.
How to find out what ads Google is sending you
Scroll to the bottom of the My Activity page and you should see a link for Ads.
Once you click on this you’ll be presented with a personality profile showing personalised ad preferences.
This includes topics from Bollywood films to sex robots, dependant on your own personal desires.
Again, you can switch this off using the blue toggle.
How to delete EVERYTHING
Before removing everything, you can make a copy to make sure you can find a website you’ve forgotten the name of, for example.
Under “Personal Info & Privacy”, scroll down to “Control Your Content” and under click “Download Your Data”.
When you’re ready to obliterate Google’s version, simply click the three dots in the right-hand corner of the “My Activity” screen and select “Delete Activity By”.
While you’re here, you might as well learn what snooping Facebook knows about you, too.
It probably knows more about you than your friends, collecting 98 pieces of data on you.