All you need to know about Google’s Account History feature

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Most online companies make available privacy related settings that their customers can modify to their liking. The default settings are often less than optimal and making sure that everything is set up properly is one of the first things that you should do.

In fact, it is also important to check those settings regularly just to make sure nothing has changed.

The Google Account History is where Google displays some of the information that it collects about you. Search History for example is turned on by default, which means that all searches on Google will be recorded by it if you are signed in to a Google account at that time.

There is a misconception though in regards to the Account History feature: some users believe that disabling history features will stop Google from recording data. It won't. While it limits Google on what it can do with the data, the company may still record it as confirmed on the "delete search history" page:

When you delete items from your Search History, they are no longer associated with your Google Account. However, Google may store searches in a separate logs system to prevent spam and abuse and to improve our services.

What is being recorded

According to Google, the following information are recorded by its servers:

  1. The IP address of the user.
  2. The date and time the request was made.
  3. The full request URL including search query.
  4. The header that includes the browser and operating system.
  5. A unique cookie ID that is stored on first visit.

Manage your Account History

google account history

Google has improved the Account History page recently. It is now displaying all important switches on a single page for easier access.

The new page lists the following four history-related features:

  1. Things you search for - Google Search History saves searches that you make to "deliver better suggestions, faster results, and other valuable Google product features".
  2. Places you've been - Saves the locations you have been in to "provide benefits like improved map searches and tailored commute information".
  3. Your YouTube searches - Saves searches you have made on YouTube to "make future searches faster and your video recommendations better".
  4. Things you've watches on YouTube - Saves all videos that you have watched on the site to make them "easy to find and improve your YouTube experience".

All four entries list a manage history link and an enable or disable button depending on the current state of the history feature. The manage history link leads deeper into the account. You need to sign in again using your password before Google lists the history that it has recorded.

Note: Clicking on disable may not necessarily delete past recordings. You may eed to use the manage history link to delete those recordings from your account. After you disable a feature here, click on manage history to verify that all data is removed from the history.

Below those four major history settings are related settings which you may find useful as well. They lead to the following four entries at the time of writing:

  1. Google+ - The Google+ account settings that offer privacy settings and more.
  2. Shared Endorsements - If you don't want your profile picture showing up next to commercial or promotional contexts.
  3. Search settings - Google Search settings page.
  4. Ads - Displays information about you according to your Google Profile and Google ads across the web. Includes your gender and age, language, interests, and opt-out settings.
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All you need to know about Google's Account History feature
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Find out how you can use Google's Account History feature to improve your online privacy.
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Responses to All you need to know about Google’s Account History feature

  1. Nebulus July 13, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    The solution for the privacy-conscious people is simple: don't search using Google while being logged to their network. It would be even better not to use Google at all, but this is not always possible.

    On a funny side note, I have a plain Google account (that has no G+ or other services associated with it). When I decided to click on "Manage history" for YouTube, I was greeted by a message telling me that my account was just associated with YouTube :) Be warned!

    • Trebuchette July 17, 2014 at 3:58 am #

      I put OG Youtube on my damned phone. Auto-changed my ancient youtube name to my email, no request or nag screen or anything. That's one account I will NEVER use again. (I have several others, but still...) Guess I'm switching to iPhone after all :/ (Or a Lumia. At least they're awesome looking.)

  2. jasray July 13, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    My Gosh! Thanks for the information. Actually, it was interesting to see my history, daily "high" surf, low surf, day-of-week surf. For instance, the middle of the week Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday were "high" search days with Wednesday being the highest. The numbers are off somewhat because I rarely use Google, but . . . my YouTube searches--everything I've watched for however long they held my history which must be a long time because I had 70 something watches. But I'm not sure what Google or any other entity would do with the information--lots I suppose. Naive perhaps.

  3. Blue July 13, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    +1, the funny thing is only yesterday I was doing a history erase when I noticed the easy 4 button account history management page. I don't mind Google tracking me, so far they have done no harm that I know of and leaving some of the 4 buttons on, my surfing experience is a lot better. Though I would prefer no ads at all, it would rather they somewhat reflect my tastes and age group instead of being assaulted by stuff irrelevant to me.

    As for occasionally deleting my search history, I do this every few weeks to keep searches fresh and new. But the good thing about the tracking is stuff I've already seen, it keeps track of so on future searches I can find them again and know I've clicked that link before, or totally ignore it because I know I've been there before.

  4. Rick July 13, 2014 at 11:42 pm #

    Thinking about DuckGoGO. Well a little logo on DuckGoGo with an apparently innocent "in partnership with Yandex" tells us that they are not much different than Google (if you are looking for alternatives). From the Yandex site:

    2.3. Data collected by or transmitted to Yandex, the Company or Partners, in the course of accessing, interaction and operation of the Site and provision of the Services may include, without limitation, the following Data: (i) Internet Protocol (IP) address and location; (ii) cookie information; (iii) browser identification information; (iv) information on your software and hardware; (v) date and time of accessing the Site and the Services; (vi) information of third parties websites referred the Site or the Services; (vii) information related to your activity in the course of the Services use, including, without limitation, search queries history, search results provided to you in response to your query, web pages you visited by reference from the search results; (viii) other information.

    At least with Google history there is some control! Maybe we all have to get EU addresses so that "remove me" is available to all of us :)

    • Trebuchette July 17, 2014 at 4:00 am #

      I trust the Russians more than most Western nations. Yandex it is. (And it's Duck Duck Go... geez).

  5. MP July 14, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    HOW CAN I DELETE GMAIL OUTGOING MAIL.

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