Make it all go away.
At this point, it should come as no surprise that you’re being tracked on the web. That still doesn’t make it any less disconcerting that Google records not only your text searches, but your voice searches, too. That’s right: Google has a collection of recordings of you talking. Should you decide to take a stroll down Googling memory lane by listening to yourself, you can. Remember the desperation in your voice when you wanted to know more about 1990s Bulls small forward Tony Kuko?? How that led you to wonder about sports mascots? And how that had you asking Google about hot dogs? No? Well, Google’s got you covered.
Supposedly, this is all in service of improving voice search, giving you more customized results faster. But it’s also very much in service of making people uneasy—perhaps rightfully so—since the depths of your search history might come back to haunt you.
If you want to put an end to at least this part of today’s ceaseless tracking, you can. The simplest solution would be to stop using Google altogether. But come on, that’s impossible. Your next best bet is stopping “web & app activity”—Google’s phrase for “recording browsing history”—then going in and deleting everything that’s piled up so far.
Head to myactivity.google.com to access most of what you’ve ever done on Google, including recordings of every time you clicked the little microphone and googled something or said “Ok, Google” to an Android device to get it to listen.
It’s worth mentioning that anytime an Android phone thinks it heard you say “Ok, Google,” it started recording, even if you weren’t actually saying it, or if you were saying it without intending to trigger a search. Google’s a good listener, but it is, shall we say, a touch self-centered.
On the My Activity page, you can turn off tracking?—?or “pause” it, in Google’s terms; the company’s hope that your departure is just temporary is right there in its word choice. Click on “activity controls” on the side, and toggle Web & App Activity off.
You can also access the setting on a phone, though changing it in one place—on the computer, say—changes it in every place you’re using that account. On a phone, you can find the setting in the Google app in Privacy > Browsing > Manage Activity History.
After changing how Google will track you in the future, you also have to change what’s been done in the past. On the My Activity page, you can delete recordings one at a time, or you can batch-delete them by using the “Delete activity by” filter.
If you really want to get into the depths of Google’s tracking, you’re in the right place. Just head to “other Google activity” to find your Location History, Device Information, Google Play Sound Search History, and more. It’s…interesting.