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Thursday, May 26, 2022

How to access and use Google’s ‘My Activity’ feature

One of the biggest things that still plagues Google today is the level of trust from its users when it comes to privacy concerns. As a data company, they rely on gathering user information to help them build better products and services. It’s a double-edged sword since making a custom experience is challenging without giving up some of your user data. It has been said that Google knows too much about you; however, users have more control over their data nowadays than ever before.

With the introduction of Google’s My Activity feature, users can have more power over their search history and account data settings. One of the most significant additions is automatically deleting your Google search history after a certain number of months by default. Before this, you could potentially have years of search history from old devices saved on your account without knowing otherwise. Read on to learn all you need to know about the much-needed “My Activity” feature.

How to access the “My Activity” feature from the Google app

There are various ways to find the “My Activity” feature on Android; however, getting to those settings is relatively easy regardless of your chosen method. You can quickly get to your Google account main page by doing the following:

  1. Open the Google app on your device, then tap your profile icon in the upper right corner.
  2. Under your selected account, tap Manage your Google Account.
  3. Tap the Data & privacy tab.
  4. Scroll down to the History settings section and tap My Activity.

You can also find your Google account main page from the system settings menu. If you have a current Pixel or Samsung device, you can go to Settings → Google. This location may differ slightly based on the device manufacturer or version of Android, so you might have to do a quick search to find it.

How to access the “My Activity” feature from your web browser

You can always choose to open the “My Activity” feature directly in your favorite web browser as well. You can do this on a computer and use the desktop version, or you can use your phone and add an icon shortcut to your home screen for easy access. To get started on your Android device, you can do the following:

  1. Visit the My Activity web page on your device, which should automatically launch in your default browser (copy and paste if needed).
  2. Open your browser settings (three-dot menu in most cases), then tap Add to Home Screen (Chrome or other supported browsers) to create a shortcut.
  3. Tap Add, then press Add to Home Screen (or drag and drop the icon) to finish up here.

If you use Google Assistant, you can also say or type “my activity” to jump right to the main web app in your default browser.


How to use the “My Activity” feature for managing your Google account history

Now that you can access the “My Activity” feature, it’s time to start managing your Google account history. This page consists of three main sections known as Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History. You should go through them one by one and select the preferences that work best for your account needs. We’ll break down each Activity controls section for you below:

Web & App Activity

Under the “Web & App Activity” section, you’ll find the settings relating to your web and app search history. Google recommends using this setting to enhance your user experience. Doing so can give you faster search results and improve recommendations for many Google services. Saving your account history can also be helpful in certain situations. For example, imagine you looked something up last week but forgot what it was — you can quickly bring up your search history to jog your memory.

At the same time, many apps rely on Google services to function, giving them some potential to track you as well. It’s not just your web searches, but your actions within these apps can be tracked to an extent as well. This is mainly done to serve you with more relevant ads or improve app experiences. Of course, the app data is only saved to your account history if you enable the optional subsetting for tracking activity within apps.

If the feature is enabled, and you want to disable it to increase the privacy of your Google account, you can do the following:

  1. Tap the Turn off button to get started.
  2. Read through the description that pops up, then scroll down.
  3. Press the Pause button, then the setting will be disabled.

  4. Tap Delete old activity to remove the previous search history from your account.
  5. Select All time.
  6. Select the products you want to wipe the activity history from, then press Next.
  7. Tap Delete, and now all the selected services will have their activity history removed from your Google account.
  8. Press Got it to finish up here.

You can also manage the history data for each Google service or app individually by tapping its icon under the See and delete activity section. Each one can be handled in this manner to give you even more fine-tuned control over them separately.

Every “Activity controls” section listed in this guide has its own “subsettings” and auto-delete frequency settings. You can keep everything off indefinitely, or you can select a few helpful settings here and there. It’s also recommended that you pick 3 months as the auto-delete frequency if needed.

Location History

Since location history tracking is such a sensitive topic for many of us, some might hesitate to use this feature at all. You have to manually opt in to location tracking; however, enabling it has some advantages in certain situations. For example, you can get recommendations of places to explore based on your travel location history. If you enjoy finding new shops or restaurants you’ve never heard of before, this could be helpful while at home or during your travels abroad.

To add to the whole travel topic, enabling location history means you can also access a feature called Google Maps Timeline. This allows you to visually see the specific routes you took when visiting locations during your travels. You can also go back to your timeline later and check where you were on a given day, including an estimated time when you visited a specific location.

If you want to enable the location history feature for your Google account, you can do the following:

  1. Under Location History, tap the Turn on button.
  2. Read through the description that pops up, then scroll down.
  3. Press Turn on.
  4. The location history setting is now enabled for your Google account.
  5. Tap Got it to continue.

YouTube History

The YouTube History setting saves a record of the videos you’ve viewed and keeps track of what you’re searching for. This improves your video recommendations and allows you to resume videos where you left off. As with any feature that offers you a personalized experience, it needs some user data to make it all work together correctly.

If you value your privacy over the mentioned YouTube features above, you should do the following to remove them:

  1. Under YouTube History, tap the Turn off button.
  2. Read through the description that pops up, then scroll down if needed.
  3. Press Pause to disable the YouTube History setting on your Google account.

  4. Tap Delete old activity.
  5. Select All time.
  6. Look over the preview of what will be removed, then tap the Delete button to wipe out your previous YouTube history.
  7. Press Got it to return to the main page.

Google needs to know a few things about you for a better user experience when using their apps and services. However, you’re more in control now of how much personal information they can keep tabs on. The “My Activity” feature shows you everything you need to know about what you’ve been sharing with Google. It’s a welcomed addition to help you quickly manage your account data and history on any device.

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