How to delete everything Google knows about you

delete-google-search-history

Last Updated: Feb 14, 2017 @ 10:27 am

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It knows you better than you know yourself. It knows every smartphone you’ve thought about buying, every coworker you’ve tried to find dirt on, every embarrassing ailment you’ve suffered…

It’s your Google Activity (formerly known as Google Web & App History), and it knows everything you’ve searched for… dating back to 2005. Yikes!

This post will teach you how to permanently delete your Google history to enhance your internet privacy and prevent your search and browsing data from following you around forever.

Note: Clearing your browser history is NOT the same as clearing your Google Web & App Activity history. When you clear your browser history, you’re only deleting the history that’s locally stored on your computer. Clearing your browser history doesn’t do anything to the data stored on Google’s servers.

Warning: If you use G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work), it is vital that you find out your company’s acceptable use and data retention policies before you delete anything!


Jump to…

How to: 
Download all your Google data
Delete all your Google activity
Stop (or “pause”) Google from saving your activity
Know the consequences of deleting & disabling your Google search history
Deleting and disabling your history does NOT make you invisible to Google
Do more to protect your internet privacy


What you do online is YOUR business—and yours alone

ExpressVPN believes what you do on the internet is private. Nobody should be keeping tabs on what you do online—not without your knowledge and permission, anyway.

Unless you’ve disabled it, Google Activity has been keeping a record of your search and browsing activity for the last decade. It knows every link you’ve followed, every image you’ve clicked on, and the URLs you’ve entered in the address bar.

Google uses all this data to construct a profile about you, including your age, gender, languages, and interests, and filters search results and ads for you based on your profile. Pretty clever, right? But this is also an incredible invasion of your privacy.

Don’t let your Google search history haunt you forever.

Back up your Google Activity before you delete everything

In April 2015, Google quietly released a feature enabling you to download all of your Google data. If you’re feeling sentimental (sniff), you might want to consider downloading your search data before you delete and disable it forever.

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How to download and delete your Google search history and stop Google from saving your activity

How to download all your Google data

Google’s Takeout feature lets you download data from all of the Google products you use, including your Google Search history, Gmail, Calendar, Chrome, Google Photos, Maps, and more. Here’s how to use Takeout to download all your Google data.

Step 1: From your Google Takeout “Download your data” page, select the data you’d like to download. By default, all of the boxes are selected. Select Next.

Download your data

Step 2: Select your archive format and delivery method, then select Create archive. (We stuck with the default settings.)

Create an archive of your Google data

Step 3: You’ll receive a notification when the archiving process is complete. In this example, we received an email with a link to download our archive.

Google sent an email with a link to download your archive

Now that you’ve downloaded an archive of your data, you’re ready to delete your history.

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How to delete all your Google activity

Use these steps to delete data about all your Google activity, including your searches, video searches, and any ads you’ve clicked on.

Step 1: From your My Activity page, select the vertical ellipsis (⋮), then select Delete activity by.

Select “Delete activity by”

Step 2: Change the date from Today to All time. Select All products from the product drop-down menu, then select DELETE.

Delete all your Google data

Step 3: Google will tell you how it uses your data to make its services more useful for you. Select OK.

Message from Google before you delete

Step 4: Google will ask you if you want to delete your activity. Select DELETE.

Delete your activity from all time?

Step 5: Your screen should now say “No activity.”

No activity will appear.

Congratulations. You’ve now deleted your Google search history. Here’s to blank slates! Next up: Get Google to stop saving your activity.

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How to stop (or “pause”) Google from saving your activity

Google doesn’t provide a way to permanently disable it from saving your activity, but you can hit pause. Use these steps to hit pause on Google saving your activity.

Step 1: From your Activity controls page, you’ll see a section for “Web & App Activity.” Slide the switch to the left.

Pause your Google Web & App Activity

Step 2: Google will ask if you’d like to pause your Web & App Activity. Select PAUSE.

Delete your activity from all time?

Step 3: Check to see if your activity is paused. The screen should say “Web & App Activity (paused)” and the sliding toggle should be grey.

Web & App Activity is now paused

Step 4: If you want to hit “pause” on Google logging your activity on ALL the Google apps and services you use, slide all the switches on this page to the left.

Read the important information for each item and select PAUSE to complete each step.

Pause all Google Activity
Mission accomplished! Google won’t be saving your search data any more.

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Know the consequences of deleting & disabling your Google search history

It’s important to understand the consequences of deleting your Google search history.

By default, Google personalizes your search results based on your search activity. So if you search for recipes and click on links from allrecipes.com more frequently than all other websites, then Google will rank allrecipes.com higher up on the search results page every time you look up a recipe.

If you delete and disable your history, then your returning search results will be broader and less specific to you. So allrecipes.com won’t show up at the top of the results, even though it’s your favorite site.

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Deleting and disabling your history does NOT make you invisible to Google

If you delete and disable your history, you are not invisible to Google—especially if you maintain a Google account for using various Google apps and services, such as Gmail and YouTube.

The reality is that it’s pretty much impossible to be invisible to Google. But you can be prudent. Start by eliminating all Google apps and services from your daily web use. And use search engines that don’t track your search activity, such as DuckDuckGo, Ixquick, and Startpage.

But if your heart is set on being as invisible to Google as you can possibly be, then don’t use the internet. Ever. (Even then you’ll need to jump into the bushes if the Google Street View vehicle is nearby.)

escaped convict caught on google maps

Caught on Google Street View: No bushes in sight for this guy to dive into!

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Do more to protect your internet privacy

Now if you REALLY want to step up your internet privacy game, here are more steps you can take.

  1. Use ExpressVPN. While “pausing” Google Web & App History prevents Google from collecting data about you, it doesn’t prevent your ISP from tracking what you’re doing online and potentially sharing it with corporations and governments. To hide your online activity from your ISP, use a VPN like ExpressVPN.
  2. Use Tor Browser. Tor hides your location and online activities from anybody doing network surveillance or traffic analysis, so your internet activity is difficult to trace back to you. It’s one of your best bets for maintaining anonymity online. To maximize the effectiveness of Tor, be sure to read these tips: Want Tor to really work?

Safe browsing, everyone!

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Declutter your online life

Want more help with decluttering your online life? Check out ExpressVPN’s guides on:

Featured image: Thomas Lefebvre / Unsplash (image has been modified)

64 thoughts on “How to delete everything Google knows about you

  1. Thanks, it helped me to know more about my google a/c . I have decided to migrate to duckduckgo from google ;THANGS A LOT

  2. For the life of me ….. I CANNOT ….. figure out how to to delete my search history. This is not cool!! I have heard things about google . I just want things gone.

  3. That doesnt give us privacy from google! Mine has always been turned off… all of it. But you can bet google has stored everything!!! Come on.. we are not stupid

  4. * I knew how to do this.. But didn’t know about the pause option .
    * My question is how can I recover deleted search history from my activity.
    * I need lawyer to subpoena history wondering if google company can do that. This is dealing with a criminal matter and trying to get back what I accidentally deleted because my phone was water damaged and deleted it while I was scheming through it. And need it very bad for my defense. Please give me an answer thank you..

    1. Hi Joseph! We’re trying to keep the guide always up to date. Which stop didn’t work for you? Will try to replicate and update as soon as possible.
      Lexie

      1. “We’re trying to keep the guide always up to date. Which stop didn’t work for you?

        Search is no longer on the list as described in Step 1.

  5. This was a very good article to understand how to use gmail account and delete history. I am concerned about my privacy and my searches. Not only did I do what I needed to do I did it so quickly and learned a lot more about having a google account. This was so easy to follow. Thank you so much!

  6. Could you please by return email send simple instructions to delete permanently total browsing history on Google as i cannot understand your current delete site instructions thanks Harry

    1. As a American , I need all my freedoms back using the Internet and delete all past , present and future activities.

  7. I have tried to delete all my google activity to no avail.
    I went into my google account and to Activity and deleted every single item from 2014-2016 today. It asked me to verify by delete-delete.
    THEY ARE STILL THERE!!!!!!
    I turned off my iPad several times.
    I went back and did the deleting procedure again.
    The whole history IS STILL THERE!!!!
    I am frantic because I cannot deal with illogical situations.
    Any ideas, please?

  8. Thank you for this excellent article and instructions. I went to my activity (didn’t even realize that I had a Google account before I tried to log in) and found there was almost nothing in my history. Today’s Google searches did not show – basically nothing except 13 old searches or YouTube viewings from February and April. Nothing came up under web activity (because I use FireFox instead of Chrome?) Did I miss something that might be there or are they keeping less than everyone thinks?

  9. I’m confused what if you don’t even have a google account so you’re never logged in? Then there’s no where to go to delete the history associated with your ip address?

  10. Hello, thank you for this wonderful article!
    I read that if you upload a picture in the Search By Image function of Google, Google will also store those pictures.
    Do you know if these get deleted as well?
    Thank you!

  11. Thanks very much for this clear and helpful post!

    Do you know if deleting all your history also actually deletes it with Google or do they still hold their own copy of your behaviour for their own (or governments’) purposes?

    What can / do they store if you are not logged in to any Google account?

    Thanks!

    1. I’m curious about that as well. As far as I know this doesn’t delete everything as google will still keep records for auditing purposes. Googles latest policy is that they will anonymize the last octet of your IP address after 9 months (This could prevent someone from identifying you but they could still isolate your locality). Within 18 months they will anonymize cookies with a HMAC key hash function using a randomly generated key for each day of logs that will get deleted immediately after anonymization. These practices also applies to back-ups on tapes. How long google keeps the anonymized data there-after I’m not really sure. If you have or had a google account (gmail, etc.) they have two independent systems. The web search server will log a query without your Account ID or email and at the same time your Web History Database is updated with the search query. This can prevent third parties from identifying you but wont do much for government or law enforcement. If you wish to delete your account it could take up to 90 days at which point everything is wiped but the email address since google does not recycle them. This is my best understanding of the policy.

      1. Kyle. You said that if you delete your account it takes up to 90 days. I wonder what your source is? Interested to know…

          1. Hi Pradeep,
            Did you follow the steps in the guide Let us know if you have any problems with it.
            Lexie

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