FAQ: How to tell Google to forget you and make it stick

Tell me again why I want to delete my web history? And what Google would do with it?

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The other data-sucking monsters are less forthcoming. And by data-sucking-monsters I mean almost all search engines, any high-traffic sites that do a lot of business in targeted ads and several categories of marketing-support and user-data providers that sell nothing you'd want to buy, but get it by spying on you to see what you want, how you want it, under what circumstances and for what price.

For a company that already has reams of data on what you've searched for, looked at or actually did online, Google has been fairly prudish about fully exploiting that information until now.

It didn't combine everything your Gmail account knows about your friends and family with what YouTube knows about how much funnier you think catastrophic-skater-crash videos are than kid-hits-dad-in-the-crotch-with-a-ball videos.

That's all over now.

As of March 1 Google is combining all of what each of those services knows about you into one database designed to give marketers invaluable insights into your motivations and preferences – all gleaned from what you look at online.

  • But I can erase all that whenever I want?

Nope. You can't erase it because it doesn't live on your computer. It lives on Google's computers. When you sign in to a Google site, a cookie designed to stay put even when you try to delete the other cookies on your system tells Google you're there so Google can record every request you put through it from then on.

The data is perpetual – meaning you can't get rid of it unless Google lets you get rid of it.

Luckily, for a very short time, Google is allowing you to get rid of it (see instructions here).

Deleting information in the main Search profile won't make you a stealth user or keep anyone from realizing you're physically present.

It will eliminate much of the information that would have been the centerpiece of a marketing profile of your behavior, with links to all those crotch shots you watched on YouTube but, of course, didn't enjoy.

  • What about my Google services? Do I lose those?

You do not lose any Google Services by deleting your web history. You only make your search results a little more random and weaken (a bit) the feeling of having someone stare over your shoulder at everything you read, see and do.

All the other services have their own profiles too, of course. You'll have to go to those individually and erase them, if they make a Web History control panel available to you.

Photo Credit: 

Reuters

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