7 Easy Steps To Improve The Privacy of Your Google Account

[This is a long article, please do read it all to understand some of the pros and cons of exercising your rights to greater privacy on Google. If you already understand those considerations the short hand version is to go here, swipe everything to the left. Click here for Ads, swipe left, Click here and swipe left on everything on the page. Click here, scroll down and select to turn off Private search results, and search results as you type.]

If you are reading this perhaps you are interested in adjusting the privacy parameters of your Google account. This article is by no means exhaustive in that regard, and is not meant to be construed as such, or as legal advice, of any kind, whatsoever. With that said, this post does offer an easy 7-Step Process that, if followed, will exercise your right to a greater degree of privacy within your Google account and beyond. 

Google is creating an exchange with you, and the currency is information, so here are a few considerations on how to regulate aspects of that exchange. Google provides each User the opportunity to change their privacy preferences, some components of Information disclosure might be felt to beneficial by the user (such as tailored advertising based on search history), others might be thought to be less necessary (such as voice or location monitoring) or vice versa, with respect to these decisions you the User have the power to control what kind of information Google can keep about the activity of your Account, and how and what they are entitled to do with that information (search history, voice record, photos & videos). As I present the ways in which you can exercise your rights to privacy, I will also include a brief cost/benefit analyses on the various feature or features.

Increasing awareness around how to control your privacy provides yourself an opportunity to reflect on advantages and disadvanges. For example, some people might prefer to have their voice conversations be recorded and transcribed into written transcripts, as this can be very helpful for business purposes, and keeping minutes, while others might opt not to engage this feature in the spirit of potentially greater control over product privacy or intellectual property. Further still, some users may not wish to grant Google usage of their videos & photos for promotional or advertising materials (as the user is not compensated for this), whereas another viewpoint may deem this an opportunity to improve the outreach of the product, and thus ultimately its service capacity and value. 

Potentially for any of the above reasons, feel free to walk through this easy 7-Step Process to learn how to, among other things, delete your Google Browsing History, opt-out or in to Voice Recording, opt-out or in to Location Tracking, and enable or disable Google Ads to use your images/videos in their Promotional materials. 



Log in to the Google Account which you want to adjust the settings for.


Click this link: https://www.google.com/settings/accounthistory


Swipe* "Your Searches and Browser Privacy" to the LEFT, and click PAUSE. Also do this for, "Places You Go", "Information from your Devices", "Your Voice Searches and Commands", "Videos You Search For on Youtube", "Videos You Watch On Youtube".

*Before you swipe for number 3 consider this C/B ANALYSIS of its attributes:

Search and Browser Privacy

A cost of removing search and browser history is the inability to access previous web destinations. A benefit of removing search and browser history is greater privacy with respect to the information you choose to provide the provider in exchange for their service. In an age where data is becoming synonymous with wealth, this right to provide less data could be perceived as a "discounted" rate of exchange for the service. 

Places You Go

A cost of opting out of location tracking could be loss of access to an opportunity to freely keep records for gas mileage, which can be assistive in calculating tax deductions, or even to study your driving patterns, which provides context to analyze driving routes, such as for Uber or Lyft drivers. A benefit of removing location tracking is the reduced rate of exchange of data as mentioned above, and generally less of an 'all seeing eye' kind of organism. 

Information for your Devices

A cost to opting out of information for devices is that by keeping information such as, contacts, calendars, and app information, as well as "other data", Google might be able to provide you with a more seamless experience. A benefit to opting out of sharing this data is having less concern for what "other data" means.

Videos You Search For & Watch On Youtube

A cost to opting out of keeping this record is the same inability mentioned above, returning to previously viewed queries or videos watched. A benefit is a well-swept user experience (perhaps you don't want to be reminded how many cat videos you watched last November).   


At the very bottom of this settings page you will notice a section titled: Related Settings, at the bottom of that, click on Ads, next to "Ads Based on Your Interests" swipe* LEFT to OFF. Scroll down a titch on this Ads page and on the left hand side you'll see a blue box that says, "Control Signed-Out Ads", click that button, and a new page will come up, next to "Ads Based on Your Interests on Websites Beyond Google.com", swipe* LEFT to OFF, beneath that, next to "Google Search Ads Based on your Interests", also swipe* LEFT to OFF.

*Before you swipe for number 4 consider this C/B ANALYSIS of its attributes:

Ads Based on Your Interests

A cost to opting out of ads based on your interests is that you lose the added value of being offered things you are more likely to want to buy. A benefit to opting out of ads is not subjecting yourself to that temptation, or perhaps more objectively put, reducing external incentives to make purchases.

Ads Based on Your Interests on Website Beyond Google

A cost to opting out of conveying your interests on Google across third parties websites is the additional fluidity that there too, you can have your advertising customized. A benefit of opting out is remaining in control over who can profit from your interests, which is currently simply listed as "Beyond Google" and remains projectively unknown to the User. Additionally, steering clear of third party territories with their own terms of services and privacy policies, reduces risk of misuse of your information, and enhances your personal interest privacy.

Google Search Ads Based on Your Interests When Signed-Out

One cost to opting out of Google ads based on your interest when signed-out is the ability to mute them (also a way to let you know if were previously opted-in). A benefit to opting out is that when you log out of Google you log out of a domain that has those preferences accounted for, without concern that they will be shared with unknown parties. 


Go back to Related Settings, and click on Shared Endorsements, scroll down and make sure the box which reads, "Based on my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in Ads", is unchecked*, click SAVE. 

*Before you uncheck for number 5 consider this C/B analysis:

Shared Endorsements

A cost of unchecking the shared endorsements features is the market power of having your potentially positive reviews, used to improve the online sales of products you enjoy. A benefit of unchecking shared endorsements is retaining control and privacy over your profile image, your name and how information you have shared in your reviews is used. 


Also in Related Settings, click on Search Settings, scroll down to the header titled, Google Instant Predictions, and check* the box that says, "Never Show Instant Results" Then scroll down to Private Results, and click* the option that says Do Not Use Private Results, scroll to the bottom and click SAVE. 

*Before you check and click for number 6 consider this C/B analysis:

Never Show Instant Results

A cost to not using instant results is reducing the probability that what you are typing into the search engine can be found before you've finished spelling it (as it is an aggregate of what other people ultimately searched when in that same position, and pages indexed by Google). A benefit to not using instant results is reducing innacuracy that does come with such an assumption, e.g., when I want to type photon to research light, it doesn't help me for it to predict that I'm typing photograph, simply because that's more common). You may have had an experience deleting the auto predicted word out of frustration, and typing out your search word again from the beginning. This stops that and as is the case with all of these options, provides an opportunity to exchange less interest based, and thus profitable, private information. 

Private Results

A cost to clicking Do Not Use Private Results is that you'll lose an added layer of intimacy, such as the ability to search for personal flights or appointments. A benefit to opting out is interacting with a search results platform that is a more clear representation of what someone else might be seeing. This could be helpful for users wanting to better understand how Google search rankings behaves when not personalized.


In Related Settings, click on Google Plus. If you completed step 5, near the top of this page next to Shared Endorsements, it should now read OFF. Scroll down to the section titled Photos and Videos, and uncheck*, "Show Geo location by default on newly shared albums". In the same area, make sure to check*, "Don't feature my publicly shared Google+ photos as background images on Google products & services." Lastly, also in the section of Photos and Videos, under the title "Auto Awesome", make sure you've unchecked* the box next to, "Create awesome new images, movies and stories from your photos and videos." 

Before you uncheck, check and uncheck for number 7 consider this C/B analysis:

Show Geo Location on Newly Shared Albums

A cost of unchecking Show Geo Location is the potential convenience of showing that the photos are where they say they are. A benefit of unchecking it is a reduction in exchange of interest based data (IBD). For example, where you are is information on what you might purchase (stuff that's nearby) or what ads you might see in form of print media, that is real world ads (park benches, bus stops, billboards, flyering locations), and this information is economically valuable, and optional.   

Don't Feature My Public Google+ Photos and Videos on Google Products and Services

A cost of checking don't feature photos and videos in Google products and services is not contributing to the betterment of the product, (specifically temporary background photos), and therefore your value perceived when interacting with it. A benefit to checking this box is retaining control of your material and its marketability. 

Create Awesome New Images and Movies and Stories From Your Photos and Videos

A cost of unchecking this box is "awesome new images and movies", which unlike the other "learn more" feature next to these options, does not include a link to a specific data set of information about that feature. but Instead inks here (as of 6/12/2016), could be they missed a link, to be contrasted with the explanation for the Feature mentioned just above, which looks like this). A benefit to unchecking this box is not having to concern yourself with what "awesome new images and movies" means, and exercising your ability to not participate in that. 

I hope these 7 easy steps to improve the privacy of your Google account was helpful and informative. Please consider your privacy options carefully and thoughtfully, as there are many valuable additions to being less private, as noted in the costs, as well as valuable additions to being more private, as discussed in the benefits. Generally, these privacy steps are a way to exercise control over your IBD. Feel free to comment below with any respectful observations, questions, corrections, or expanding points of view. 

Some information for this post was obtained by The Free Thought Project