It’s no secret: Google knows what we do on the Internet. Absolutely everything. The growing dependence of users on the services available on smartphones allows the Mountain View company to know where we are, what interests us, what our concerns are and much more information. Even sensitive. The good news is that there is a tool that allows us to know the data that Google stores about us, manage it and even delete it. We talk to you about My Activity.
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What is My Activity
It is a registry that Google enabled in mid-2016 to improve the user experience with a dual purpose. On the one hand, it is mainly presented as a tool to control the personal data that the company stores thanks to the daily activity of each one, with the possibility of modifying or even deleting them if desired.
But Google also admits that it’s a source of control for creating personalized advertising with its Google Ads campaigns. The search engine stores data based on searches, pages visited and videos viewed with the alleged purpose of showing advertising and suggested content more relevant to users. The company itself advertises on its website that the goal is to “help you rediscover what you’ve searched for, what you’ve read, and what you’ve seen.”
Privacy concerns at the Internet giant already existed previously, although until then there was no unified access to data. ‘My Activity’ is an extension of the ‘My Account’ section,with the advantage that it gathers in the same location all the information of the user, so that you can consult the history of videos viewed, topics searched or places visited, among others.
This is how my activity works
To avoid questioning its transparency, the Mountain View company provides the relevant mechanisms to modify the user’s fingerprint with the three functionalities detailed below. However, keep in mind that there is information that is not included in the ‘My Activity’ panel and that you have to search in ‘Other Google activity’ to be able to edit it. Include actions such as comments and likes on Youtube or subscription to notifications. It is accessed from the cover of ‘My Activity’ and through the three points in the upper right corner.
See My Google Activity
There are two ways to access the data that Google stores about us from a computer. They are as follows:
- The easiest is by directly accessing the My Activity page. There the information will appear automatically in the event that we had previously registered with our Google account.
- The other option is to enter ‘My Account’, access ‘Data and Personalization’ in the left column and then move to the ‘Activity and chronology’ section.
Those are the mechanisms if you use a laptop or desktop computer. But if we use a mobile phone,which is the most common today, we must follow other steps. From an Android device, we enter Settings, Google, Google Account, Data and personalization and from here, we find ‘Activity and chronology’ again. On iPhone, the path is similar, although terminology may vary: Settings – Your account – Manage your Google account – Data and personalization – ‘Activity and timeline’.
Clear your activity and search history on Google
Google allows the user to delete the activity history of a specific period of time or since they started using its services. The easiest way to access is from the ‘My Activity’ homepage, at the three vertical dots at the top right. There you have to select ‘Delete activity by’ and offers the option to choose ‘Since always’.
It is also possible to delete content by doing a keyword search and, once the results are displayed, by clicking on the three points of each activity and clicking ‘Delete’.
Stop saving your activity to Google
In addition to being able to delete their trail on Google, the user can prevent their activity from being stored from a certain moment. This way, you won’t have the need to delete your history periodically. To do this, simply follow the route to ‘Data and personalization’ (in ‘My Account’) that we have detailed before and modify the ‘Activity controls of your account’. They are classified in web activity, location history, or voice and audio activity, among others.
Google also recommends entering the Internet with private browsing or leaving the personal account so that the search engine does not link activity and user.
The possibility of personalizing the advertising that impacts us on the Internet is one of the most interesting options of ‘My Activity’. It comes disabled by default, but activating it is very simple. From ‘My Account’ you have to go to ‘Ad Personalization’, click on ‘Go to Ads Settings’ and activate.
Google explains that personalization is based on the personal information they obtain when someone opens an account, the data of their partner advertisers and the interests of the user. Therefore, the first parameters it stores are usually age, gender and some interests based on searches. Uninitiated in the art of digital marketing are often surprised when they look for a trip on the computer at work in the morning and at night they see information about that trip on their mobile phones. They spy on us, yes, but not in the fraudulent way they believe. All that information is connected to our personal Google account.
The advantage is that the user can customize and even delete the parameters that are used for the personalization of advertising, so that if he has made a specific query of something he does not like, no related ads appear.
Google refers to the page of the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance to manage the information collected by other pages about the user and which is then used to personalize advertising. And, although many people are reluctant to assume it, remember that ads will continue to appear in any case and that hiding our activity causes us to be impacted with messages that are probably not of our interest.
Basic Google My Activity options
The interface of ‘My Activity’ is very simple. Once the page is accessed, everything the user has done on the Internet appears in a timeline sorted in chronological order. In each of the sections, the date is first specified, then the platform on which the activity has been recorded (YouTube, Google, etc.), the time, the title of the file and the web page to which it belongs.
The titles and the name of the website are linked to the originals, allowing you to easily refer back to a file. Through the search engine at the top, which supports queries by dates or terms, you can retrieve a previous search.
The possibility of controlling privacy through ‘My Activity’ allows Google to transmit an image of security and transparency to escape scandals such as those that have splashed Facebook in recent years. The user feels that he is in possession of his data and that he can control what is saved and what is not. This tool, however, has a ‘but’ and that is that most Internet users do not even know that it exists and that it is not intuitive enough to be useful to users of all levels.