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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  • Why is Google tracking all this information about me anyway? I never said it could.

You probably did, at one time or another, or fell victim to the "on by default' trap. Originally it was necessary to tell Google you wanted it to track your searches, postings and periods of silence indicating bathroom breaks. Later Google switched it so everyone was signed up by default. If your accounts predate the change to default, you probably aren't being tracked, at least not in that one spot.

  • So if I don't have a Gmail or YouTube account, I'm good, right?

No, not as long as you have cookies.

Google tracks users two ways. When someone with an account logs in, Google puts a persistent cookie in your browser so it knows where you are and what you're doing.

If you don't have Google account – or don't sign in – Google puts a persistent cookie in your browser (at least it's consistent) along with snippets of code that collect the URLs, subjets and locations of sites you visit.

The other Google service sites have similar tracking features, but they don't currently share that information. At least, they won't until March 1.

  • So if I delete the information and shut off the tracking on Google Search that's the end of it?

No. Google will still track your footsteps all over the web using the two mechanisms described above. Deleting your web history also "pauses" the tracking mechanism. In Googlespeak, "Paused" means "Stopped," but leaves the door open for Google to start collecting again when it changes its mind.

Comments, problems, WTFs from earlier blog entry "Last chance to tell Google to forget you"

  • "I can't figure out from the onscreen messages whether I'm doing it right."

The process isn't hard but the support messages appear to have been written by engineers more fluent in C than colloquial English (even native English speakers often lose the ability to communicate in their native language after steeping too long in the very particular world of the Engineer's Mind).

  • "I followed your instructions and got: "Web History has not been enabled by the administrator of the domain @" Does this mean Google is not tracking me?"

This wasn't clear to me, either and there was no explicit information in Google Support, so I checked with Google directly.

Photo Credit: 

Reuters

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