Wipe The Slate Clean on Google

…before it’s too late! You may have heard that Google has a lot going on behind the scenes that you are (or were) unaware of and had no idea what it all meant. You would not be alone. Even as someone who has worked on the web since the mid 90′s there’s a lot going on that I never realised and that shocked the be-jeepas outta me.

But, Google has (kind of) come clean and is giving us that chance to wipe the slate clean – but that window of opportunity to clean the slate is closing – very soon.

You see, one of the reasons we didn’t know everything that Google was recording about us was due to the unbelievable amount of individual privacy policies across the range of Google services. 60 in total. Now Google tells us

“We’re getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies and replacing them with one that’s a lot shorter and easier to read.”

The single privacy policy covers multiple products and features, reflecting Google’s desire to create one simple and intuitive experience across the increasing number of services.

But, first things first. You need to get rid of all of what Google already knows about you else it will be locked into Google’s elephant like memory for (ever)… “But Why!” I hear you shouting. Erm. Good question. Google will, after March 1st, share the data gathered about you on the main Google service (search) with it’s growing stable of other services like YouTube, etc).

For anyone who thought otherwise, Google were playing Big Brother long before Facebook got all the glory for invasive technology… But, Google say they retain all this data for OUR OWN GOOD.

Google: Web History makes search better

“Your Web History includes searches you’ve done on Google and pages you’ve clicked in search results. Web History allows you to: * See personalized search predictions as you type. * Get results and recommendations that are tailored to your preferences. * Search the full content of pages you’ve already seen.”

Before I explain how, let me explain why you should wipe your history from Google.

I recently logged into a personal account of mine (I usually use my Apps account) and went into history (www.google.com/history) and found over 2 years of recorded search history. Not every search I ever did but all the ones I did while being logged in to my Google account. Nothing I would be embarrassed about (altho I do occasionally do some odd research) but, nonetheless, why should I let Google build a detailed picture of me, my likes and dislikes and things I am curious about?

I’m just not comfortable with Google keeping a record of everything I do while using it’s services. I mean, there was that Russian Bride thing in summer 2010 and that research about… actually, you don’t need to know about that either!

There are two types of Google account, a personal account (you@gmail.com) and an Apps account – usually used by businesses where Google looks after all your emails and the email accounts for your staff (you@yourdomain.com). The process of securing your search history and blocking out prying eyes is a little different for the two types of accounts.

Personal / Individual Google Accounts

1. Log in to Google

2. Got to your ‘Account Settings’ (click the little arrow next to your email address in the top right corner)

3. Find ‘Services’ – Here you can view your web history or delete your Google account.

4. In this ‘Services’ section click the ‘Go to web history’ link.

On the next page you see (see the next image below), if you see Web History is on next to a grey Pause button, it means your search history is being recorded, retained and (very soon) reused across all Google services.

5. To remove all your history, click the button that says ‘Remove all Web History

You will need to confirm you want to remove all web history. Just click the ‘OK’ button.

6. To stop Google from recording your history in the future, click ‘Pause’ (although it says ‘Pause’ it is actually a ‘stop’ button). You can, if you wish, turn it back on.

Once you’ve ‘Paused’ Web History, the Pause button will show as a highlighted Resume button. Click that to allow Google to continue recording your search activity and enable the web history to be shared across all Google services.

Please note: On a couple of accounts I cleared web history for, I had to click ‘Remove web history’ twice. The first time the history was paused but the history had not been deleted. The second time, the history was deleted and trepanned paused.

Apps Accounts on Google

With a Google Apps account the settings are a little different.

Logo into your Apps account.
Go to the ‘Organization & Users’ tab.
Click ‘Services’

Scroll down and make sure ‘Web History’ is turned off. It most likely already is for an Apps account.


Video by Google about Organisation and Sub-Organisation settings:

Once we’ve done this, can we be sure Google does, in fact, wipe our slate clean? No.

Did you ever delete a Facebook account and come back a year later and find your old account history was still there for the world to see? I did. It was a wee bit annoying to say the least. What makes me think I can trust Google to do the right thing? Nothing. But we can hope.

In many ways, in the “Big Brother” world we call t’interweb, all we have is hope. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had trust, too?