All you need to know about Google's Activity Controls feature

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 13, 2014
Updated • Aug 13, 2018
Companies, Google

Most online companies make available privacy related settings that customers may access to manage some settings online.

The default privacy settings of online accounts, devices, and applications are usually not optimized for maximum privacy; Internet users interested in their privacy should control the options provided regularly to make sure they are set to satisfactory levels.

Google's Activity Controls page that is part of My Account on Google, gives customers privacy-related options in regards to the recording of data.

Tip: also check the our guide on Google's My Activity management page.

Activity Controls

google location history

Google renamed Account History to Activity Controls recently. The new page offers management options for various sets of data that Google may collect when you use company services.

You can load it with a click on the following link:

The following control options are listed as of August 2018:

  • Web & App Activity -- Saves activity when you use Google apps or sites. Google states that it is used to give "faster searchers, better recommendations, and more personalized experiences". You may enable "Include Chrome history and activity from sites, apps, and devices that use google services" to save data of the Chrome browser as well.
  • Location History -- Stores locations you have been to "give personalized maps, recommendations based on places you've visited".
  • Device Information -- Stores information about "your contacts, calendars, apps, and other device data to improve your experience across services".
  • Voice & Audio Activity -- Interaction with Google services that support speech may be recorded if the feature is enabled.
  • YouTube Search History -- Searches on YouTube are stored to "make future searches faster and improve your recommendations".
  • YouTube Watch History -- Any video you watched on YouTube is recorded by the feature.

Google lists learn more links underneath each option and a manage activity link to check the activity and delete what Google has recorded and stored.

What Google saves as Web & App activity

  • Searches and other things customers do on Google sites and products.
  • Location, language, IP address, referrer, and whether an app or browser is used.
  • Clicks on ads or buy activity when visiting the site of advertisers.
  • Device information such as recent apps or contacts.
  • Websites and apps.
  • Activity on websites and in apps that use Google services.
  • The Chrome browsing history.

Note: If you want to block Google from recording Location history, you have to disable the Location History and the Web & App Activity.

What Google may save as device information

  • Contact lists.
  • Calendars.
  • Alarms.
  • Apps.
  • Music
  • Information about the device such as battery level, screen status, quality of Wi-fi, touchscreen and sensor data, and crash reports.

What Google may save if Voice Activity is enabled

  • Google records voice and other audios when you use voice activations.

The recording includes several seconds prior to saying commands or tapping the microphone icon to start voice commands.

Management of stored data

How you manage the data that Google has stored depends on the type of data that you want to manage.

If you select to manage Location-based data you are taken to a map view and timeline page that highlights visited places and gives you options to check the history on a specific date.

The My Activity page on the other hand lists searches you have done and URLs you visited among other things in chronological order. You can filter the data by product or date, and delete individual entries or all of the,.

Old information, some of it still valid

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 is recorded by its servers when you connect to them using a desktop browser.

  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.
All you need to know about Google's Account History feature
Article Name
All you need to know about Google's Account History feature
Find out how you can use Google's Account History feature to improve your online privacy.
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  1. The Dark Lady said on July 9, 2023 at 11:19 am

    Martin, I would appreciate that you do not censor this post, as it’s informative writing.

    Onur, there is a misleading statement “[…] GIFs are animated images …”. No, obviously you don’t seem to have take much notice of what you were told back in March regarding; Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).

    For example, (if you had read my replies within that thread, you might have learnt something useful). I even mentioned, “GIF intrinsically supports animated images (GIF89a)”.

    You linked to said article, [Related: …] within this article, but have somehow failed to take onboard what support you were given by several more knowledgeable people.

    If you used AI to help write this article, it has failed miserably.

  2. KeZa said on August 17, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    AI is stupid, and it will not get any better if we really know how this all works. Prove me wrong..

  3. Database failure said on August 18, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    Martin, [#comment-4569908] is only meant to be in: []. Whereas it appears duplicated in several recent random low-quality non relevant articles.

    Obviously it [#comment-4569908] was posted: 9 July 2023. Long before this thread even existed… your database is falling over. Those comments are supposed to have unique ID values. It shouldn’t be possible to duplicate the post ID, if the database had referential integrity.

  4. Howard Pearce said on August 25, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    Don’t tell me!

    Ghacks wants the state to step in for STATE-MANDATED associations to save jobs!!!

    Bring in the dictatorship!!!

    And screw Rreedom of Association – too radical for Ghacks maybe

  5. Howard Allan Pearce said on September 7, 2023 at 9:13 am

    GateKeeper ?

    That’s called “appointing” businesses to do the state’s dirty work!!!!!

    But the article says itself that those appointed were not happy – implying they had not choice!!!!!!

  6. owl said on September 7, 2023 at 9:50 am

    @The Dark Lady,
    @Database failure,
    @Howard Pearce,
    @Howard Allan Pearce,

    Note: I replaced the quoted URI scheme: https:// with “>>” and posted.

    The current is owned by “Softonic International S.A.” (sold by Martin in October 2019), and due to the fate of M&A, has changed in quality.
    Many Authors of bloggers and advertisers certified by Softonic have joined the site, and the site is full of articles aimed at advertising and clickbait.
    As it stands, except for articles by Martin Brinkmann, Mike Turcotte, and Ashwin, they are low quality, unhelpful, and even vicious. It is better not to read those articles.
    How to display only articles by a specific author:
    Added line to My filters in uBlock Origin:,.home-posts,.home-category-post:not(:has-text(/Martin Brinkmann|Mike Turcotte|Ashwin/))

    By the way, if you use an RSS reader, you can track exactly where your comments are (I’m an iPad user, so I use “Feedly Classic”, but for Windows I prefer the desktop app “RSS Guard”).
    RSS Guard: Feed reader which supports RSS/ATOM/JSON and many web-based feed services.

  7. Anonymous said on September 14, 2023 at 6:41 pm

    We all live in digital surveillance glass houses under scrutiny of evil people because of people like Musk. It’s only fair that he takes his turn.

  8. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    “Operating systems will be required to let the user choose the browser, virtual assistant and search engine of their choice. Microsoft cannot force users to use Bing or Edge. Apple will have to open up its iOS operating system to allow third-party app stores, aka allow sideloading of apps. Google, on the other hand, will need to provide users with the ability to uninstall preloaded apps (bloatware) from Android devices. Online services will need to allow users to unsubscribe from their platform easily. Gatekeepers need to provide interoperability with third-parties that offer similar services.”

    Wonderful ! Let’s hope they’ll comply with that law more than they are doing with the GDPR.

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