Facebook has been in the news a lot recently with regards to the, let’s say, less-than-ideal privacy practices that allowed users’ personal data to be harvested on such a huge scale. In the long term, though, this scandal may be a good thing – it’s already forcing Facebook to change its ways for the better.

Meanwhile, it’s easy to forget that plenty of other companies keep a huge archive of data on its users. Facebook isn’t the only firm that makes most of its money through targeted advertising!

Google’s data collection

Yes, the big G certainly rivals Facebook in terms of how much it knows about you. Depending on the services you use, Google likely knows the websites you visit, the places you go, the videos you watch, the people you know, the photos you take, and more.

Like Facebook, it uses all this information to improve its services. This is how autofill works, it’s how YouTube recommendations work, and it’s how Google Assistant works. For many, this is a fair compromise – but if you’re uncomfortable with Google knowing so much, or just want to be a little more selective about the data you share, there’s an easy way to view and delete the entire archive of you.

First up, we recommend having a quick read through Google’s “Your Data” page. It’s a good explainer of the kind of details Google keeps, and why.

Next, check out My Activity for an item-by-item breakdown of your account history. You’ll need to log into your Google Account to view that page.

It’s a bit creepy to scroll back through time and see what you were up to in years gone by. The good news is you can remove any of the items here permanently by pressing the “three dots” button next to any entry, followed by Delete. You can also select Delete Activity By from the top menu to remove swathes of data at once, as sorted by the type of activity.

Deleting items manually is all well and good, but if you want to change the way these systems collect information in the first place, you can do that too. Find Activity Controls from the menu and you can toggle on or off the collection of different types of information, such as device information, location data, and search history.

We’re not suggesting you delete everything, but a little knowledge goes a long way. Leave on only the data collection you think could be useful to you in future.