Many individuals think that turning off their location services will prevent anyone tracking their online activities.
Unfortunately, these just offer real-time locations, and they harvest more data by other means in many different areas.
Many people forget that Google is an advertising company at heart. Although they offer many apps and services, which are useful, they all have the ability to gather data and send it back to headquarters.
Before looking at alternatives to Google, it is much better to learn how Google tracks your location and activity, and how you can stop Google from tracking you.
By the end of this guide, you can learn how to stop Google from tracking search history and any other online activity.
Does Google Track You
Many individuals may be alarmed at how much Google knows about you. The ugly truth is they log all your search history, regardless of which of their services it comes from.
For them, it is easy to track you because you have to sign in to all their services using your Google account.
Here are some of the things that the company knows about you:
- What you search for in search engines
- How you search for things online
- What patterns you have when searching
- If you are attracted to any ads
- Links you follow
- Picture or images you look at
- Videos you watch (YouTube etc.)
Google clearly states what they retain in their terms of service, although this isn’t an area many users go to.
One thing many users are not aware of is even logging out of your Google accounts leaves an online trail Google can see.
Here are areas where you leave a trail, no matter if you log out of Google:
- Your device IP address
- Your location data (anywhere in the world)
- Any information on how you use Google services and the patterns of use you have
- Ads you click, and where the ads are located
- Server information
- Information coming from other partner services you use (social media etc.)
- Device information for your means of accessing the internet (Phone number include if you use a phone)
If all this wasn’t bad enough, third parties could use Google Analytics to help them with their ad placement, even if they don’t see as much as Google can.
How Google Tracks Your Location
Now you know some of the information they keep, it is good to know how they track your location and your activity. It is here that causes some users to think that if they turn off location history, they are free from Google following them.
Google tracks using two methods, though it does depend on your device:
Apps: Google Apps such as Google maps use a combination of GPS and location data from your smartphone or laptop or another mobile device to log data. When you enter addresses or complete a local restaurant review, they all go to build up your location profile.
Devices: Android devices send their own set of data to Google. While it won’t see what you are searching for, it does let Google know where you are.
How to Clear Google Search History
Before you stop Google tracking, you do need to clear all your history. This is quite straightforward, as you can see in the following instructions.
Here is how you can clear your search history on desktops and Android.
Android Browsing Data
- On your tablet or smartphone, open the Chrome browser app
- To the top right, tap where it says ‘More History.’ If your address bar sits at the bottom, swipe upward
- Tap ‘Clear Browsing Data’
- Next on the ‘Time Range’ decide how far back you want to clear browser history
- Lastly, tap on ‘Clear Data.’
Desktop Browsing Data
- Click new ‘Control your data in Google Search.’ (Located under Google Search, I’m Feeling Lucky Buttons on the search page.) Alternatively, click settings then click ‘Your Data in Search’ option on the search engine results page.
- My search history page presents you with your browsing history.
- Here you can clear search and history for any Google service search data, or a complete day web and app activity by selecting clear browsing data for these periods.
Deleting Google Activity
When you delete activity, it deletes information about searches, video searches, and any ads you have clicked.
- Navigate to the Google, My Activity page. (Click three dots)
- Select ‘Delete activity by.’
- Change the date from today to ‘All time.’ Then select the listed products from the drop-down menu.
- Select ‘Delete.’
- The page shows you with a reminder of how Google uses personal data to make things useful for you.
- Select ‘OK’
- Google will again ask if you are sure, you want to delete your activity. Select ‘Delete.’
- The last screen will show ‘No Activity.’
With all the individuals who are completing the above, Google responded and added a new feature. It is now possible to change the settings so anything over three months or eighteen months will be automatically deleted.
Besides this, the way your phone tracks your location history, it operates differently. Again, you will follow the manage activity link, and you can see your location data as dots on a map. Select the drop-downs and you can see your Google maps timeline in date order.
After this, select the trashcan to delete any data you wish.
How to Stop Google from Tracking Me
One of the things often overlooked by people is that once they clear their search history, Google just begins collecting data again.
Clearing searches is just the beginning, so here you can learn how to turn off Google tracking and some other things you can do to prevent your online profile building up again.
It is possible to pause any recording of activities, yet Google won’t let your turn it off forever.
Here is how you can pause the recording function.
- Head to the app Activity Controls page. You will see a section called ‘Web & App Activity.’
- Slide the switch leftward
- Google will ask you if you wish to ‘Pause’ web & app activity. Select ‘Pause’
- Check the activity is paused. If so, the toggle will be greyed out, and it states they have paused everything.
- Here, it is possible to ‘Pause’ Google from logging activity on all their apps or services. Slide each switch to the left to pause.
Changing Google Play Country
Another way to throw Google off when tracking you is change country for Google Play on your device. Here are the simple steps to do this.
- Open the Google Play Store app
- Tap on the Menu, followed by Account and Country, then Profiles.
- Tap the country; you will add a new account.
- You do need to add a method of payment for that country. You may have to change your address/ billing address, along with phone numbers.
- The primary payment method has to be from the country you are adding a new profile.
- After creating a new profile, you can add alternative payment methods from other countries.
- The Google Play Store automatically changes over to the new country.
- It can take up to 24-hours to change the country.
Alternative Ways to Stop Google Tracking
With each of the google services, you can find an alternative, and the only difference being they may not work together in the same manner. However, if you are concerned about your privacy, then it is worth checking these out.
Here are some of the alternative services followed by the ultimate way of preventing Google from following you around the internet.
Search Engines: DuckDuckGo, Qwant, Search Encrypt, and Bing
Email: You will be deleting Gmail if you want to get rid of Google altogether, they do scan your emails. Alternatives are FastMail, Tutanota, and one of the best and most secure ProtonMail.
Chrome: Nowadays, nearly every browser, there is will be a better option than Chrome. Brave, Firefox, and Tor being among security conscious. The list can go on to encompass Google Drive, Docs, etc.
No matter what you use, you can elect to use a premium VPN service. Along with any of the above or other Google alternatives, a VPN can stop Google knowing your exact location, so they have no reference point where to point their harvesting efforts.
All their ads are misdirected and cannot bear any relation to your area. It doesn’t take much effort to stop this large search engine company from harvesting data and knowing more about you than you do yourself.