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See the things you’ve searched for, visited, and watched on Google services (myactivity.google.com)
559 points by hokkos on July 6, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 276 comments

Excellent, I like how it weaves my girlfriend looking for the perfect bra through my research on collision search strategies in physics engines.

Would Google in any way discern between those two sessions? Me sitting at the desk doing some hobby coding performing a query like "DBVTBroadPhase", her on the couch on my laptop looking for inspiration performing queries like "michelle branch instagram".

To a human it doesn't take much to jump to the conclusion that two totally different persons are using the same account at the same time.

But maybe that isn't even of interest to google. Me and my GF are basically one entity to them. We frequent HN and skinnycurvy.com, we like Michelle Branch and Steve Klabnik (;)), we do pilates at the gym while at the same time play underwaterhockey at the sports centre.

Any ads Google shows us might have a 50% chance of being shown to the right person, and that's probably good enough. Maybe they get lucky and I'll mention some womans brand I saw in an advert to my gf sometime.

Dunno what's made it into production or what has changed in the 2 years since I left Google, but when I was working on search algorithms this "entangled session" problem was very much a known issue and a subject of active research. You don't even need two people for it to become a problem: if you're searching for [camping sites near silicon valley] and [rust http libraries] and then try to compute a similarity metric that includes both of those lines of querying, you'll get wildly different results than if you separate them out and then compute similar sites.

> if you're searching for [camping sites near silicon valley] and [rust http libraries] and then try to compute a similarity metric that includes both of those lines of querying, you'll get wildly different results than if you separate them out and then compute similar sites.

Wow, never thought about how complex of a problem that can really be. To hijack your example: searching for [rust http library] and [clean rust from metal bookshelf] should be completely separate lines of querying but without understanding the full context, appear to have many false similarities (rust, library/bookshelf, 'clean' is a word associated with compiling software, and 'metal' can cause confusing with projects/articles on [bare metal programming with rust])

Yeah, disambiguation is a huge problem in search as well. I remember that when I joined (2009), I kept saying we need better disambiguation algorithms, because I was working on UI stuff and getting nonsensical results when I hooked up other teams' backends to the search result page. A bunch of teams were formed and I think the problem was largely solved by 2012 or so - there're some clever tricks you can pull when you have the amount of data and computing power that Google does.

Google drives me absolutely nuts because of it's 'intelligence', if you will. With dumber search engines it is trivial to ban words you would only expect to see on pages unrelated to your search phrase, using '-' or something similar. Similarly, if there is a word I know is associated with another topic, but is unlikely to appear in another topic, it's easy enough to force it to appear using '+'.

Google's methods for detecting clustering, or whatever they are using, are so 'clever' I feel like I'm unable to communicate what I want. I feel like I'm arguing with a particularly intelligent and malicious toddler sometimes.

Say I was to ask a toddler to bring me a beer, and they brought me a root beer. I'd be like, "no, bring me a beer, -root."

A normal child would bring me a normal beer, cause that's the only thing in the fridge that has beer in the title without root. The Google child would bring me some sassafras, because sassafras is a root beer, which is a beer, but it doesn't have root in the name.

Annoyed, I turn off safe search, and I say "Bring me a beer, -root -sassafras -sarsaparilla -ginger -cider."

The Google child comes back and says "I couldn't find what you were looking for." I get up off the couch, look in the fridge, and lo and behold it's completely full of beer.

You're looking for Verbatim Mode:


wow, you just fixed everything that i thought was wrong with google. thank you.

Awesome! Is there a way I can make this the default?

You can't do it for all Google, but if you use Chrome, you can set it as the Omnibox default. Go to Menu -> Settings -> Search -> Manage Search Engines, then add a new row at the bottom that says "Google Verbatim", "verbatim", "https://www.google.com/search?tbs=li:1&q=%s", hit Done and click "Manage Search Engines" again, then find that row in the list above (alphabetical) and click "Make default". Now everything in the address bar uses verbatim search.

this. Thank you!

I've found that part of the solution is to give it more to work with, and in a 'dumber' way. Remember, Google search isn't really a query language any more, it's more of an NLP find-what-I-mean interface. So sometimes instead of giving it keywords and logical operations ('beer +fridge -root -sassafras'), you can get better results by just asking a question ('get one of my beers from the fridge').

Are there any that you are at liberty of talking about? I find machine learning especially applied to search and NLP a really interesting problem.

Probably not - when it comes to search algorithms it starts to get dangerously close to things Google considers very confidential.

Machine learning is definitely a big part of it, but you can also get surprisingly far with simple bag-of-words models when applied to enough data.

Would it be worth the effort to set up some kind of "mixer" service, where your requests will be routed through random other people's accounts? The goal is to destroy the information value of your search history: "Yeah, I searched for horse costumes, but so did everyone else in the pool!"

Probably would be easier just to use an anonymous account for every search, but is it easy to destroy all the patterns associated with the searches that would indicate it's the same person.

(The concept is similar to those proxy services out there that pay people to let them use their "good" IP address to e.g. scrape sites that will otherwise automatically block "obvious" server farms. Also Bitcoin mixing pools.)

Check out Google plus settings, and others you can opt-out for everything. When I checked my activity with above link, my activity is absolutely nil. But I'm using that account for very long time. Opt-out every possible thing.

I think I'd have to trust google to respect that. :-P

I am surprised no one suggested https://search.disconnect.me

You can just regularly delete your search history.

Chrome has user profiles you could use to separate things, but it would take conscious effort to switch between them each time.

Only works if there's a carrot. Netflix does this too, and we always use it because (1) it always asks you up front and (2) if we use the wrong user we'll destroy our recommendations.

Not sure what you mean, the benefits of separate browser profiles are huge and obvious - separate tracking for logins, sessions, etc. Before profiles came along my wife and I just used different browsers - otherwise we'd have spent all our time logging out of and back into facebook and twitter and so on. Profiles fixes that.

You can even make desktop shortcuts to launch Chrome with a given profile, so in practice it's like having two different apps. I guess you could launch one instance and swap users but we don't bother.

And if I have to see another frame of Jake and the Neverland Pirates there is a very real risk of a self inflicted injury. Their multiple accounts thing is great.

> Excellent, I like how it weaves my girlfriend looking for the perfect bra through my research on collision search strategies in physics engines.

Sounds like an Ignobel worthy paper in the making.

Sounds like someone doing research to implement jiggle physics in a game engine.

Dead or Alive bounces to mind.


Aren't you sexist by assuming only a male would be interested in Steve Klabnik and having a girlfriend? Nothing in tinco's comment indicated that tinco was male.

He is sharing his personal experience. Why are you generalizing it?

Hi, some persons seem a bit offended by my comment. Could you perhaps explain what part of my comment you interpret as sexist? I most certainly don't want to make you throw up.

I think the issue people are having is that you assume it should be clear to anyone that searching for "collision search strategies" would not also be searching for a bra, or like this female singer. This implies difficult physics and programming problems are not for women. There is no reason the same person could not be making all of those queries.

Ok to clarify, what I meant was that these sessions were happening at the same time, and on different devices and had vastly different topics.


Ever have the feeling that you're looking to get offended at things that aren't there?

That's not even it, it could be for a gift (or crossdressing?). It's more that it's unlikely that you're going to search for bras while searching for programming knowledge, unless you belong to a subset of people that really like to multitask or are very easily distracted (and this subset makes the problem harder).

I know someone who had a technology-driven bra startup, but I suppose that's an edge case.

I did that once, or rather, Stackoverflow's advertising algorithms thought I did. I don't remember the exact search phrase, but it did container the words "stackoverflow" and "string", and the advert I got stond out from the ones you usuele get there.

Why are you assuming that tinco is male?

This is actually quite a good point.

It's definitely not.

I don't know why you got downvoted, but you're right. The author seems to claim that Google should know someone searching for collision strategies shouldn't search for bra's or for Michelle Branch on Instagram. Or even suggest that its not possible for one person (male or female) to be interested in both topics.

The post was downvoted (not by me) for its sarcastic tone and for not taking into account that in the OP's real scenario, the queries were being performed by two different people. If Google assumes the same person can't search for two topics like that in one account, obviously they would be making a crude mistake, but Google has preferred data-driven, sociologically agnostic methods long enough that it's common knowledge on HN. For example, the same behavioral research they're doing with their captcha and behavioral-based authentication should help them lock on to different rates of typing, clicking, etc that two people on the same account might display.

> for not taking into account that in the OP's real scenario, the queries were being performed by two different people

gberger's comment was pointing out that the original comment did not take into account that these particular queries could have been performed by the same people.

That said, it could have been phrased more productively.

I definitely came away from Tinco's original comment with the icky feeling that a) Tinco's a little too thrilled with how super interesting and intellectual he is, and b) Tinco doesn't have much respect for his girlfriend's interests, and c) Tinco takes it for granted that Google should know that a single person couldn't possibly be interested in the union of those interests, probably because it should know that all the physics and programming and philosophy stuff is "boy stuff" and the rest is "girl stuff".

gberger seems to be reacting (in a slightly less than constructive way) to that same uncomfortable sense.

I would not dare presume to be more intelligent than my girlfriend. I just wanted to emphasize the difference of topics.

That said, I am very thrilled with my interestingness and intellectuality.

I thought tinco was saying that Google should know that two parallel threads of research going on at once from separate devices implied that at least two separate people were using the same account.

I read it as a literal example - tinco saw those exact examples.

I got the exact same vibe.

> could have been performed by the same people.

But they aren't in the example, and Google is understanding their specific situation wrongly/not in an optimal way. Maybe that's not possible to do, maybe the way they are doing it right now is the best overall, but it is not the best interpretation of the specific situation. Which is all I get from the original comment: "Here is something that they could understand better".

Pointing out that implementing this precisely would be difficult because you can't rely on interest subsets as an indicator would have been a fine response. Immediately accusing the poster of being sexist because it obviously is impossible to do is not, unless you have hard data to support that there is no way to tell the difference.

(I'd assume "disjunct" queries from different devices at the same time very often are different people, or at least worth treating as different sessions. But maybe people use multiple devices at the same time more often than I think?)

That's incorrect. The GP comment (tinco) is simply relaying a story that says that Google should know that he and his significant other have disjoint interests and query patterns (though they share devices and location). It's an anecdotal story. Someone else could have said that they like things in the join of the two interest sets and dislike something else. Tinco's story helps us learn more about the "entangled session" problem - a known area of research in Google (per the constructive response from nostradamons). Claims aren't made about how to go about doing that (people searching for X will never search for Y), just that Google should have a way of addressing Tinco's specific case.


Yes, because it was a facile potshot aimed at a better comment that discounted both the actual content and the nature of the problem; not even a daring one at that, this isn't the National Review.

You might have bigger problems than misplaced ads if you let other people use your accounts.

Salting the data. If they get past the blocker they can have some bad data.

Not all that uncommon to let your partner use your iPad or whatever.

Common sense isn't common.

Ahh... It's so satisfying to see the stream of everything I was doing on Android suddenly stop when I switched to Cyanogenmod and not linked my e-mail account.

The trick was to use K-9 Mail. Otherwise, when configuring the e-mail (Gmail), the default mail application adds the entire Google account and the link to the mothership is reestablished. Although I have installed GApps, I transitioned to a dummy account per device plus Xprivacy, plus NetGuard.

Long before Android, the stream had dropped to a trickle when I started sandboxing the Google account to a special session for Gmail. Everything else, searches, youtube went on an incognito window or to a separate Firefox profile.

I knew it to be effective from the constant e-mails I was getting that "Google does not recognize your sign-on". Guess what, Google, I want it that way! Now myactivity.google.com confirms it.

It's true, you can cut off the data stream. I have done so, at times, myself. At this point, though, I have it on (with some device exceptions where I do anything that might be sensitive, or I might want to avoid someone accidentally finding out [e.g. gift purchases]). My reasoning is that I am likely being tracked no matter whether it's on or not. At bare minimum, even with stringent cookie policies and software removing "tracers" on a regular basis, my cellphone carrier, or isp, can track what I'm doing, unless I have a VPN on. While I don't mind having a VPN on, when I don't have it on, it makes the most sense to me to be able to view just what I've been doing. I like having that log, because I then have an idea of what other companies know about me. It sucks that I'm put in the situation where handing over my data to someone who does the responsible thing and reports it to me is a sensible choice in my eyes.

So I'm using stock LG G3 Android Marshmallow (completely stock manufacturer ROM). I have Google settings kinda locked down as much as possible and I've been carefully managing app permissions since I upgraded from Android 5.

My google activity shows only google maps searches from the device and some google website searches from desktop (probably from when I happened to be logged into GMail and made a search query via google.com).

I use Gmail on Android, Signal for SMS (no-one I know uses Signal) and Firefox with self-destructing cookies and uBlock origin (I use a similar setup on desktop too - to prevent persistent logins) I can't see any other activity being logged. That's not to say that it isn't flowing through Google's pipes somewhere or other.

My point is that I'm only conducting basic privacy measures but (as in, not having to root or reflash my phone) - and not having most of my activity recorded in this dashboard.

I'm a bit surprised, I was using the stock Android for Nexus and in my case the results were logged. Just as other people are reporting: every single application usage, call or what-have-you. I also had turned off everything I could find in Settings -> Google Account.

Do you maybe have multiple Gmail accounts? My first time visiting the link above, it only had 3 YouTube video views from this week. That was before I changed the selector from my work account to my personal gmail account. Then it correctly showed a very detailed log, like that I had opened Spotify 2 minutes ago.

What is the benefit of running it this way? There is additional cost of burden with doing this and I am genuinely curious.

Does the cost out weigh the perceived benefits?

I think they know much more than they are showing in that dashboard. Simply staying a few steps ahead and not giving them the option to even link to your account is worth for me.

To give an example on desktop, even using separate Firefox profiles for Google and non-google activity, it is embarrassingly easy to see that the activity comes from the same person. Just cross-check the bonanza of information like screen size, plugins, fonts etc. I would be surprised if they didn't do it. I prefer to not run the risk. So I go to even greater lengths than I mentioned above, however it was getting long.

To come back to your point, it's inconvenient only in the beginning to document yourself and to set it up. Whether it is rooting the device, or setting up your own e-mail server. In the end it is about the freedom of computing whatever you want on the device that you own.

EDIT: If I may add, it's not like I'm going full Stallman. Everything is a compromise, it would be nice if we weren't forced to go to these lengths, or to compromise at all.

So the perceived benefit to limiting them is to stay ahead of them in what they know about you?

Yes. Through technical guarantees, I like to think that the benefit is not merely "perceived". And it applies to other actors as well, not only Google.

You could also just turn the stuff off.

I'm always surprised how little Google manage to do with all that info. I have a personal Google Apps account and their absolute highest achievement from knowing nearly my entire location history over the past three years, searches, current position, having all the contacts, calendar, list of my apps, even purchase history (through email receipts if they wanted it) is Google Now occasionally correctly suggesting the next destination.

Other location suggestions? Crap unless explicitly entered in the Calendar. Article suggestions in Google Now? Crap. Despite having my entire Feedly info (300+ feeds) from which they pull most useless cards. Youtube suggestions in Google Now are somehow even worse than video suggestions in the Youtube app. Ads? Complete garbage and borderline fraud against all these companies paying to advertise mobile games which I almost never play and they know it.

Bizarrely, I have a Google Apps account at work with much, much less info and it's actually a little better.

> Article suggestions in Google Now? Crap

Not my experience at all, in my case the suggestions have become so good that I find myself checking what articles Google has for me multiple times a day. It's easily the thing I check the most after Reddit and Hacker News. Heck, I'd love a standalone app or service just for the article suggestions alone.

Same. Quite a few good articles. Even things that I wasn't looking for exactly. New trailers for games I've searched before, etc.

One of the most clueless things Google does is use general search queries to suggest articles in Google News.

Just because I search for something, say a business, on the web doesn't in any way mean that I'm interested in seeing future news stories about that business.

> Article suggestions in Google Now? Crap

I spend at least an hour every morning and night waking up and falling asleep to the latest news I'm interested in, with probably 1 or 2 additional hours throughout the day -- and all from article suggestions in Google Now.

If you aren't seeing things that interest you, you can tap the dropdown menu in the top-right of each card and tap "I'm not interested in this" or "Not interested in this source" to train it towards articles that you actually do care about.

Interesting that you say that. I've seen Google to suggest some interesting and relevant information in the last few years. I use a Windows phone now so I can't comment on Google Now since the desktop/browser version didn't really take off.

I have my calendar and email setup on my phone with contacts sync also enabled. When I get to work I have one of those pinned tabs on chrome set to inbox and all my searches on my phone and laptop are on Google. Adblocker is installed on my laptop so I never see ads there but after searching for property and a bed for the last few weeks, the ads I seem to be getting on my mobile browser point to just that. I've actually ended up buying a couple of items online because of google's suggestions (GPU, cellphone, gas heater, etc). So I think it depends on how much data you feed it and how you feed it. As for suggested places to visit, I can't comment much since I don't use that feature.

Is that because you are using a "Google Apps" account? Apps has always lagged behind the "free" accounts in terms of functionality. Google Now works almost flawlessly for me with a Gmail account - appointment reminders, flight information, weather information, suggested places nearby, restaurant information, sports updates etc are generally always accurate.

Users who use Inbox instead of gmail should get a lot more rich inputs to Now. Appointments would be deduced from emails, for example, and Now will show you tracking information taken from orders in your receipts, and much more.

Now hasn't started reading email now. Somebody gleefully mentioned to me several months back that Now reminds her of bills (due dates and amounts) automatically. Essentially by reading emails from gmail. I was also told that by evening it'd start telling by itself the approximate time it would take to reach home.

For some such inputs are rich, for others scary.

A computer program does not "read" your email in a meaningfully "scary" way.

The information thus gathered can certainly be utilized in ways that may be "scary".

Most don't care anyways.

Any thoughts on what would have happened if Snowdens bosses could see his bills? His airline tickets? What the machine does with the bills is the scary bit.

For a third group, such inputs are rich if provided by an algorithm running locally, on your own personal data, whilst preserving your privacy.

They're scary when they're the carrot used to persuade you to allow a full invasion of your personal life by an outside entity, which as a matter of course requires permission to store, search, aggregate, and use commercially all of the data that it finds.

You don't need to be using Inbox for Google Now to have the appointment and tracking information parsed out. That's a setting in Google Now separate from the Inbox app. (I don't use Inbox but get those in Now)

"Only you can see this data"

Side-stepping for a minute that Google and governments can also see this data, this sort of wholesale data aggregation and presentation seriously ups the ante for account security.

Getting somebody's Google account from third-party breach-de-jour used to mean you got their email history, or could pretend to be them... But with this you have their browsing, app, search and location history. That is to say, you can discover: What they're doing. Where they're doing it. What they're thinking about (I search everything). Who they interact with.

Worse, I wasn't prompted for any sort of password. Physical access to my computer (and I assume phone) now gives easy access historical surveillance data.

Welcome to the new generation of identity theft.

It also helps one keep tabs on activity in their account, so compromises will be more apparent. I had my phone stolen recently, and use this and android device manager to make sure nobody is in my google account (it was encrypted with a fingerprint, but you never know...).

I've been very impressed with their smarts about security, they seem to tow a fine line between security and convenience. Any sensitive account information like this will usually trigger a new password entry (unless you've entered it recently), or 2fa.

The scary thing about Google and other tech juggernauts is the single point of failure that represent for the security of one's identity. Integrating all of the tech services a person would use (social media SSO, acquisitions/mergers of smaller tech service companies) is great for convenience, but the compromising of a single account is now an event that can't just be shrugged off anymore. People now exist more and more online, and there hasn't been a parallel increase in the amount of thought put into dealing with the consequences of this shift.

I noted that even though I was already logged in, it still asked me for my password (and then 2FA token). That is one step at least.

It asked for my password but not my 2FA. Strange.

(I also had no results, though, because I've turned everything off.)

It must depend on your privacy settings. I was prompted for a password, and then all it had to show was a handful of youtube videos I've watched over the past few years.

Same here. This just reflected to me that I seem to have locked down my 'privacy' controls better than I thought. YouTube is the only Google service using my recorded activity for ads or recommendations, but I actually like the recommendations.

Funny - I remember opting out of all of Google's data collection years ago. I went there fully expecting Google to have no activity recorded, as I have seen when this page (or its ilk) have popped up in the past.

Much to my surprise, it was well populated again, with my web browsing/searching, YouTube, and location histories all turned back on again. I don't use the Chrome browser (aside from compatibility testing), and I don't use Android. I'd be very curious to know how all of this was re-enabled without my involvement.

Very unfortunate, and another straw for the camel's back.

You probably opted out of relevant ads. This is a different feature as it integrates with other products (eg. Google Now).

See the activity controls to opt out here.


That those are different controls says a lot about how Google feels about making it possible to opt out of all their tracking.

That said, since there were some controls disabled, and some enabled, I'm more inclined to believe that they were re-enabled, if not automatically, then via some dark pattern. It's also possible that they were just new tracking points, but one of them was my search history, which I recall explicitly disabling.

I think that not wanting personalised ads but wanting Google Now's feature is a pretty reasonable and self consistent position....

I think new controls are part of it, but they've also redesigned the account manager to brings all your settings (privacy and otherwise) under one roof. I noticed it when they started pushing the privacy check-up feature.

You should have realized that opting out of all of Google's data collection years ago probably implies that Google wouldn't provide you access to information that they collect about you.

If it was well populated now, they actually screwed up. The data for the period that you opted out should not have been visible to you.

Well, it's not just that there was data, it's that the opt-out sliders were re-enabled.

It's the opposite for me. I didn't remember turning anything off and the only data it had was some location data from times I was using GPS on my phone.

Apparently I turned all of their tracking off at some point and forgot about it.

I opted out of search and location history. It bothers me when I turned off everything else, they auto opt-in'd me to things which I presumably wouldn't want and I had to turn off and delete everything.

It gets put back on, by default, on every major update.. how convenient..


Unfortunately I didn't click a picture upon my last update. It happened few weeks ago, maybe a month. Even google keyboard settings were reset. Also, I have two accounts on my Android and it opted back in on both of them. I needed to opt-out again on both accounts.

Right.. I'm getting downvoted because? Anyone? Just because it didn't happen to you folks?

Surely it was a mistake to comment without the support of evidences of any kind, but anyway, I just though I could share my experience.

Your original comment wasn't a personal anecdote it was a broad claim that you haven't substantiated. That's the comment that's being downvoted.

I've documented on my G+ profile how my YouTube account, deleted, would get re-created even within a few hours based on utterly unrelated other activity.

Google have been screwing this up for a long, long, long, long, long, long time.


Nicely done and thanks for sharing!

I'm glad to see this data provided back to me, however, I'm very concerned about Google knowing absolutely everything I do while on the web and on my Android device.

- Used Messenger app, sent X messages

- Used maps, with location data, search data

- Use phone, with number of calls

- Used (Any installed app) included how often and what I did.

I've since turned everything off.

While browsing on my phone last night I saw a new Google.com feature where they were using my email address to try sign me up to email lists at the top of search results.... Not cool.

It's even worse due to all the dark patterns Google adds. For example Maps will refuse to locally store your previous searches if you don't let google keep your location history, making the use of application extremely frustrating.

Trying to use Google Fit, Now, etc. will keep popping up requests to let Google constantly track your location and web searches with o clear way to disable those annoyances. And more and more.

This is, by far, the most important point. Google could make it very easy for you to use their apps offline, but they don't. The recent searches in Google Maps not being saved offline is especially annoying to me personally, and Google seems to think that it's impossible to store data if you don't send them to Google.

I can see them saying "we didn't want to confuse customers who thought syncing was broken when they didn't see their searches in other phones", but given how easy it is to tell the user "you have disabled sync", I don't think there's any excuse for Google to behave like this.

To me, the tipping point was years ago when they changed the logout screen. Now instead of logging out with one click, you "log out" but the next time you come back to Google your profile is automatically selected, waiting for your password. You have to click "sign in with a different account", then click on the X to actually remove your profile from being tied to your browser.

Anyway, it was so satisfying to log in and see absolutely nothing, no activities whatsoever.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8638157

To me it seems most likely they have a syncing framework/library that takes care of both the local storage of recent items, forwarding those to the google cloud services, and retrieving them when necessary. And when you disable the cloud services, this framework becomes inactive.

Of course, you could say the design of the framework is hostile, or that they should fall back to something else, but I can see this being considered extra unnecessary work.

To me it seems obvious that adding these sync features was the original "extra unnecessary work". It is a dark pattern that Google is obviously engaging in to the detriment of their users. They went the extra mile to annoy their users to gather some more data.

Personally I think the syncing between devices is very convenient.

Yes, which is great. But note that they require Location history for it! So to get saved (and synced) previous searches you need to let your phone upload your location constantly to Google.

I uninstalled the Gmail iPad app because suddenly YouTube and the Google maps apps on the iPad suddenly knew who I was, even though I'd never logged into them. It turned out that all Google apps can access the same iOS keychain.

The iPad is a family device. The children watch kids stuff on YouTube. My wife and I both use Google maps for different things. I was the only one using Gmail.

So, no I don't want personalised YouTube tracking on the iPad. Every time i opened the maps app it drove me to login. The iPad is a shared device. Maps and YouTube logins on a shared device make little sense, especially when Google is building profiles from our usage.

I found it a pity that my only choice was to delete the Gmail app, in order to stop the nagging. So irritating!

TBH I'd blame Apple for that more than Google. Apple desperately needs to modernize iOS to match the reality that tablets (and even phones, for many people) are multi user devices.

This is one thing that Google seemingly has never understood: A single device doesn't represent a single person. Even when it does, it doesn't represent a single usage scenario or persona.

Your family iPad is a perfect example. Another is the way I have personal emails and work emails both on my phone - but that doesn't mean I want to merge them all into one super-inbox and treat them all the same.

Most frustrating to me is the "high accuracy" location service. No, I do not want you to track what wireless SSIDs I'm near. Accurate within 25 feet, as GPS usually is for me, is just fine.

Is this still an issue? I don't remember Google asking me to do this for a long time now.

As far as I know, they've just mudded up the language, so it's not obvious that you check "Yes, please report all my friends and associates wlan ids/location and store them in one huge database that's available to Google, law enforcement etc. And once you've clicked yes, I don't think they ask again.

In my (Sony) Marshmallow/Android 6.0 phone it lets one choose: "Location mode": "High accurancy" (Use GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or mobile networks to determine location), "Battery saving" (Wi-fi, bluetooth or mobile networks) and "Device Only" (Use GPS to determine location).

Just now noticed it says "High Accuracy" (I believe Google Maps will nag you into submission on this, if you try to use GPS only).

Don't forget the menu item "Scanning" in Settings > Location. It "improves location" by scanning wifi and bluetooth _anytime_ i.e. even when location is turned off. I like the sneaky location of the menu item (no pun intended).

It does indeed nag you and once you select "high accuracy" it will stay so forever, unless you go to settings and disable it every time. Aargh. Otherwise it just keeps asking until you allow it by mistake.

Just use Here Maps w/o an account. Screw Goolgle. Even if the different service providers track you the data is at least scattered among them, not in the hands of a single Big Evil Corporation Inc.

Alternatively, use something which just doesn't track you at all:


> - Use phone, with number of calls

Oh well, they also store the phone numbers that you called along with the duration. And possibly more data than your mobile service provider manages to store.

This site exemplifies something that really annoys me with Google's material design framework. On my 13" screen, I can see a grand total of four items at a time: https://i.imgur.com/6YJxj0b.png

I really wish they'd consider information density as a plus when designing pages like this.

It's more than material design, it's all modern design. Most modern websites, application UIs, game UIs, all have inches and inches and inches of whitespace.

That's because you're screen is rotated the wrong way. Looks like this site was designed for the most common user, who is on mobile and has a lot more vertical real estate than horizontal.

That's not a material problem really. It's just this site.

The frustrating thing to me about current sharing/observing of data is that everything is a “trapdoor”: if your data leaks out, there is probably no way to regain control (“privacy panels” are nothing but a feel-good measure that still depends a lot on bug-free software and the goodwill of others). You only need to fail to protect your privacy once, and after that it almost doesn’t matter what you do.

We must rethink infrastructure to the point where the only data that we transmit is data that is inherently useless after a time. If I do something like revoke my key, it should be impossible for anyone to further use that data. Expiration dates should be baked directly into protocols so that revocation of keys and expiration are the same thing: either I revoke my key myself, or my software revokes it for me but no one else (and their buggy or insidious software) gets to decide how to respect the expiration time.

What we need to do is build a Ulysses pact[1] into the infrastructure. This worked for a while with the w3c regarding patents. I highly recommend watching Cory Doctorow's (very) recent talk[2] on this idea, where he observes that engineers are vulnerable to incremental corruption of principles.

[1] An agreement, contract, or bylaw that prohibits some type of action (e.g. a union negotiator who's payment and continued employment is contingent on never negotiation away the pension).

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlN6wjeCJYk

Funnily I've gotten pretty used to seeing my logged browser history the past week or so intermixed with a few other friends as I've built this webapp (http://www.websee.io/) that anonymously aggregates browsing activity from all the users and displays the content with the highest recent crossover, basically sharp peaks in browsing distribution across all URLS.

It's odd to me that Google collects all this data, but doesn't really seem to offer any specific applications that depend on it, individually or in aggregate. Even though they have trends, they don't have any lists like Alexa of top traffic websites, despite the fact they have a better sample than anyone, and could make such information available.

I guess I can just hope that between the more "interesting" ads they show me and whatever other magic they use the data for to improve their services, that it's worth letting them have it.

Your history is a silent input to search which radically increases search quality. Your browsing history would show up to you as chrome omnibox autocomplete syncing across devices and the ability to open on one device tabs that are open on your other logged in devices, if you use Chrome.

Uhm, like google now??

Extremely excited to learn that Google is tracking my DuckDuckGo searches from the ChromeBar.

If you are using Chrome, then you don't need to worry at all.

Your browser is uniquely identified regardless of your network location or browsing mode or profile or whatever.

Ok, that's it, time to switch to Safari. I was using private windows for searches for years but had no idea about unique browser ID.

Also Chrome crashes multiple times a week on macOS nowadays.

> I was using private windows for searches for years but had no idea about unique browser ID

Fine to switch, but the GP is wrong. This is not a thing that exists.

Honestly Safari is far more battery efficient than any other major browser available on OS X. Whenever I want to watch netflix or HBO and have only about an episode's worth of battery life left, I switch to safari and usually gain a real 10-15 minutes on the battery estimate. The CPU runs cooler streaming HD video than both Firefox and Chrome.

One more awesome thing: accessibility is always enabled in Safari.

Chrome and FF keep it turned off by default for performance reasons.

It seems that this page lists activities I have done intentionally, such as queries I entered.

I'd be much more interested to see what data I gave to Google unintentionally - e.g. what Google-provided ads I saw on non-Google sites, what sites with Google Analytics I visited, etc.

Try the links here:


Especially the Dashboard one. I use these a lot to make sure I'm not leaking any data more than I have to, to Google.

Kind of funny that these pages require you to log in with a Google account. I don't believe Google won't record any data without the browser in question being signed in...

I immediately deleted all activity from all time, however, I do not trust this was truly deleted nor that it was never shared "anonymously" with third parties.

It seems every few weeks some new account tracking feature turns up that I have to clear and disable. Considering this had stuff I though I cleared last time, I'm pretty sure "Delete" doesn't mean jack to Google. The only thing keeping me on Google is a pretty simple calendar and spreadsheet script I use to track my finances. If I can find an alternative to that, I'm Audi 5000.

Can we start a thread (this one) listing the data that people see available, for someone who doesn't have a Google account and is curious what sort of data are collected?

There's some stuff scattered throughout the comments, but it'd be nice to have a single spot.

I don't own an android phone, so there may be some more I don't see, but heres my list:

Web & App activity (search activity on apps and in browsers)

Location History (Creates a private map of where you go with your signed-in devices)

Device Information (contacts, calendars, apps, and other device data)

Voice & Audio Activity (storing your voice and audio inputs to your account, for example, when you say "Ok Google" to do a voice search)

YouTube Search History (Store your YouTube searches)

YouTube Watch History

They all have an opt out toggle.

Even if I use and Android phone I don't use gmail (K9 instead) and don't login in Google (I search from the browser), YouTube and maps. Only in Play Store, that can't be helped. I opted out from every tracking they let me opt out from, ads, location, etc.

That service confirmed that there is no data about me. I believe they know much more than that, but at least I'm making it a little more difficult for them.

Looking at mine I see:

* My Google searches, this includes audio searches and it let me play the audio.

* Watched Youtube videos

* Pages viewed on Chrome

I don't see any Android activity besides the google searches, could be because I'm using Sultan's CyanogenMod.

A long time ago I opted out of Google Map's search history.

A few months ago I searched for a business on maps, and had to type the full name. The second time I searched for it, it came up the top suggestion.

I do not trust these "privacy features" since.

Web sites definitely have the ability to attempt profiling based on what they are allowed to see (e.g. your IP address, browser, OS, typical window size). They simply guess that it is still “you” and return what “you” just did.

It was on Android's Google Maps app using 3G

That could possibly be a local cache though.

I did some tests and you are correct! Nice catch

It's safer to assume everything you input into a device is being recorded regardless of settings. If I want privacy, I'll use Tails OS with Tor. Since that's a pain to use I just don't do or write anything on the internet I don't want tracked back to me.

I have this argument with my wife every few months. She posts things on a popular social media platform and sets them "private" in full expectation that the content will only be shared with those she selects. Then she gets pissed when she later discovers the privacy settings didn't work the way she expected.

Anything pushed to the internet should be assumed public unless encrypted using open source encryption tools you completely control in a safe zone (like in Tails). All internet activity should be assumed to be logged somewhere, somehow. I don't even 100% trust Tor.

"I just don't do or write anything on the internet I don't want tracked back to me."

That's a rather Orwellian statement ...

Stupid question, but can Google (or Bing) associate what you searched for or which link you clicked in incognito searches? I've always wondered how truly incognito they are.

Well of course. The only thing the browser incognito mode guarantees is that no local data will stay around (cookies, cache, history, etc), but beyond that there's nothing stopping Google or any other online service from collecting and extrapolating data, even if you are not logged in.

Even without cookies, etc. your browser and computer basically act as a "fingerprint" of sorts anyways. They have your IP address, resolution, OS, browser engine, etc.

To avoid this you could try stripping out the user agent, changing the size of your browser window and using a VPN (I believe that's what the Tor browser basically does, anyways.)

If that's your concern, run searches through a Tor browser and Tor connection.

The default Tor browser is stripped of identifying information. The Tor conection means your traffic is bundled with many, many others users.

The downside I've found, for Google search, is that Google subjects all, or at least all I've run, Tor search requests to a CAPTCHA request. Torbot and Torfox on Android get stuck on this, and it's consequently impossible to run Google Web search over Tor on Android.

So I use DDG, which is my default search anyway. DDG doesn't track users or history.

If I understand correctly, you can prevent Google to track your activity in this page: https://myaccount.google.com/activitycontrols

The frustrating part about both prevention and tracking is that you can't find out what Google is doing to you without an account.

What, as someone who avoids Google accounts and most of their services like the plague, do you know about me? <= question I'd like answered

I am assuming it is on the same level as a guy sitting on a bench in a park watching people everyday. He notices certain people going to the same coffee shops around the same time of day, he notices others like to come out for a smoke a few times. He may even notice the types of coffee / clothes they prefer and build profiles in his head. All this without knowing the people personally.

Now this person could be doing this for fun, or he could be sent there for research (for advertising) or for surveillance.

Why is it then people are paranoid about a website collecting stats anonymously, but do not so about going into public places?

I don't know about you, but I'm not going public places in my underwear at 3 in the morning. It's a little absurd to state that there's no expectation of privacy on the web.

That, and Google isn't like one man sitting on a corner. It's like a network of guys, on every corner - that compare notes every evening. Regardless of why they do that, it's hard to call it anything other than surveillance.

Because there aren't guys sitting on benches on every corner, while Google is everywhere on the web.

Because the guy in the park forgets. And because the guy in the park only sees you a few minutes everyday, he doesn't have a complete listing of your browsing history, your calendar entries, your call history, what apps you use etc.

I might switch to DDG or StartPage now.

Why now? How did this page change your mind? If anything, it's a big positive. All web portals collect data about you - Google at least shows you what they know and give you some amount of control over it.

> All web portals collect data about you

That's factually incorrect: https://duckduckgo.com/about

It makes me wonder how they deal with DoS attempts and abuse; most large sites need to at least store IP addresses so they can identify if a user or group of users is trying to take down the site and block them.

I did not realize google recorded which links you clicked. Edit: I knew they recorded it. I did not know they associated it with your profile.

Go to any Google results page, right-click a result and copy the URL. Paste it and see what's really in there. It's not the actual link you wanted, instead it's a link to a Google server with lots of metadata about your search that redirects you to the link you wanted after recording everything about your search.

They haven't been tracking which links I click for the past five years or so since I've been running an extension like "Don't track me Google" - https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/dont-track-me-goog...

The reason I started running that extension is because I i was sick of waiting for google.com to redirect me.

That seems like quite a natural thing to collect to improve their search algorithm at the very least. "Are people finding what they're looking for?" basically.

It's not necessary to run trackers on everyone, all the time.

Sampling works. Randomly selecting accounts for inclusion and immediately dissociating that account identity from the data would provide substantively useful data.

Much the same way as it is possible, on the basis of 100 - 300 randomly selected G+ profiles to gain a strong sense of what the level of public activity of all 2.2 billion profiles (in use as of early 2015) was.

Sure, you can increase accuracy, somewhat, by bumping up that sampling count to 50,000 profiles. As I did. Though that (and monte-carlo resampling of subsets of the profiles) substantiated the trends which were clear from the first 100 or so results. Or you can bump up the value to 500,000, as Stone Temple Consulting did. Which again, largely re-substantiated the results I'd found.

Google receives something on the order of one billion searches per day. Sampling a very small percentage of those would provide very accurate results, at far smaller processing cost, and moreover, at far smaller data disclosure risk.

Data are liability.

Even if the concern were, say, edge cases regarding specific terms and the like, that would be possible to explore with targeted random sampling (stratified random samples). All very-well-established statistical techniques.


Well just making sure people are finding what they want is only part of it.

Since so much of their revenue is from ads, the better their targeting, the more money they make. If they have all this data on a person, they can target on a per person basis. And that money is probably talking louder than any care about liability from data based on how much they're collecting. They're a business, they have to have revenue in some way.

I'm making some assumptions, please correct me if I'm wrong.

if you use Firefox there is an addon called Google Redirects Fixer [1]

[1] https://matagus.github.io/remove-google-redirects-addon/

?? How did you not know this? That is basically the backbone of their business.

Google is only showing a small bit about what they know so it's misleading to think they are a leader in this regard. There is nothing here about all of the sites they know you visit because of ad tracking, etc.

IMHO that's not the proper reaction for this news, everybody already knows Google collects data about you.

It makes it a lot more concrete for me. I can see not only all of my search activity, browsing etc, but also that my partner has done on our shared tablet. It's creepy. But it did make me aware of a Chrome setting to disable activity tracking. I'll change that as soon as I get home.

> I can see not only all of my search activity, browsing etc, but also that my partner has done on our shared tablet.

You could pull up the (local) browser history and see exactly the same information there.

everybody already knows

I've learned to know that's never true, and even when people "know", often they don't actually know in a non-abstract sense.

I'm surprised privacy folks aren't happy with this tool. It shows exactly what they collect, lets you edit it, or disable features granularity.

Is it just surprise that they are in fact collecting this information? Because I thought that was pretty well known.

The message is decidely mixed.

On the one hand, yes, it's a level of transparency. And there are some controls. Exceptionally cumbersome controls, particularly if you manage multiple accounts. Quite notably lacking in the ability to entirely disable multiple services -- I have no use or wish for Blogger, YouTube, Maps, or other activity tracking. I don't want Google tracking my location data at all, in any way -- not GPS, not WiFi connections, not cell towers. Nada. I can't say that.

I cannot globally disable or deny specific permissions from Android applications (Android 5.x, supposely 6.x offers slighly improved controls). I've written elsewhere about how the entire Android app store is a complete toxic cesspit and mess.

So, yes, Google give you some insight on what information they gather, which is better than many other services. They offer exceptionally poor controls over it. And the company has been either exceptionally passive-aggressive in re-enabling tracking of data users have denied it, and re-establishing or linking services they've expressely stated they don't want re-established or linked (see my comments elsewhere in this thread), or they're manifestly incompetent to manage what they've built.

I'm not sure which possibility concerns me more.

Keep in mind that Google:

1. Already are the number-one producer and software provider for personal pervasive hackable broad-spectrum surveillance devices. Which is to say, Android-based phones, tablets, notebooks, and other products.

2. Are service provider to a tremendous number of third-party services and companies. I can shun use of Google but still need to fight against its email servers, web tracking tools, fonts, and javascript servers, just off the top.

3. Put cameras directly on peoples faces and got all flustered when it turned out that the people those cameras were pointed at didn't like the idea. Google Glassholes.

4. Are planning to put a live, always-on, 24/7/365 microphone with remote processing in homes, offices, businesses, and other locations.

5. Are planning to produce "driverless cars" which will operate as either privately-owned or business-service vehicles, yet another venue in which my privacy is directly compromised in circumstances well outside my control.

The absolute mandate for Google to operate without the slightest hint of misplaced trust is extreme. I frankly don't see how they can meet it, and predict spectacular failure.

Shows exactly what they collect? You think?

Edit, maybe delete? From your view, you mean... or from their databases?

Neither. It becomes unassociated with your account. It still provides aggregate data to them, but respects your privacy.

"From better commute options in Maps to quicker results in Search, the data we save with your account can make Google services more useful to you. Using Activity Controls, you can decide what gets associated with your account and pause the collection of specific types of data — like your searches and browsing activity, the places you go, and information from your devices."


What are best practices for blocking tracking on iOS?

What I'm doing now is:

  Logged out of Google maps, YouTube, etc. 
  Safari privacy settings to most private. Only exception was allowing cookies on current site only, rather than never
  Focus by Firefox with all privacy options checked 
  DuckDuckGo for search.
Anything else?

Also, how do you do a non indented list in hacker news? I have never figured this out.


I added some stuff. I began using 1blocker. Disabled all cookies by default, but am whitelisting them on site only for a few sites I have to log in to.

Using this site to test. Now with Vpn on, only hardware, software and gyroscope are leaking. Not sure there is any way to block this on iOS.


Non-indented HN lists: seperate items by two carriage returns. I typically number mine:

1. First item.

2. Second item.

1. Thank you!

2. It works.

3. I'm happy. This will make for better comments.

This needs a much more efficient way to purge everything instead of the three-clicks-per-day.

Edit: there is: https://myactivity.google.com/delete-activity

Does this also delete location history?

This is awesome. Crazy to be able to analyze activity so in depth.

Does anyone know if there are any opt-in data sources that feed into this? I'd like to keep it as comprehensive as possible.

I'm looking forward to using Firefox's new 'Contextual Identities' feature so I don't have to run separate browser profiles:


I always browse and search incognito, lately on Opera with free VPN. That takes care of my desktop/work search history not being associated with my account/IP.

But what is particularly insidious is the mobile click tracking. I am wary of clicking news items or links in Google Now that might reflect on my intentions in an undesirable way.

My history is refreshingly empty.

Or should I say "histories" -- there are multiple Google accounts involved, few having any variant of the names I'm known by in meatspace.

Still, for some reason, there's a bunch of Google Shit I Don't Use which I cannot simply get rid of or turn off. Instead I've got to laboriously go through each one (for each Google profile), and ensure that all tracking and history are disabled.

It'd be rather nice to have that fixed. After all, linking G+ and YouTube accounts just went so well, right?



I'm really happy to see this transparency. I wanna see Facebook doing something like this

That last data points they have from me is April 20, 2015. Maybe I locked down all my privacy settings then. Or I guess it helps to be using an iPhone.

Perhaps you have these on OFF


Interesting use of the language here: Google does not allow you to turn settings off, it merely allows you to PAUSE them. Say what you want about the end result, but the way they weasel around with words here makes me feel uncomfortable.

It's only showing Youtube activity for me, I must have some privacy settings on search to disable this but can't remember changing anything...

Strange, it's not showing any of my YouTube activity, and that's the Google service I use the most.

Same here. In my case, I'd bet it's because I still use my old profile from before the G+ merger (I never agreed to use the new one, despite their insistence).

Yeah I have two types of Youtube accounts tied to my Google account. One is my official full name, and one is my nickname that I used before Youtube started trying to force people to use their full name. This activity site only shows activity from when I use Youtube under my full actual name.

Same. I logged in with my university-issued account, and all tracking is disabled by default except for YouTube.

I tried turning on Web & App Activity just to see what it caught, and it turned it off again.

I'm not sure, but I think that makes me feel slightly better about my university.

For those of you interested, and I didn't see it in the above link, this is a link to all your Google Location History, it must only be Android because I'm not seeing a lot of travel I did while I had an iPhone:


It's not only Android. I use iPhone. I use Google Maps. I intentionally have location tracking on. I'm not sure which apps contribute but I assume all google apps can or do.


This feature has moved back and forth from maps to Google Plus and back to Maps over the years.

They don't show you the dossier if you don't log in, even though they certainly have one.

Given all this, why does Google News ABSOLUTELY INSIST I live in St. Louis when in fact I do not?

They're probably doing some basic geolocation based on your IP only for Google News.

Got there, and deleted all of it. ~10 years of search, browsing history and all other activity.

I feel good.

Excellent. Clicking on the drop down allowed me to delete everything.

I thought I'd already turned everything off, but there were still a few youtube searches in there from several years back, I guess from before I'd turned things off fully.

Is there any way to dump the raw data?

My wife and I maintain a list of ridiculous oddball Google searches we've made in the past (no, you can't see it). It would be interesting to try to train an AI to find the ones we've missed...

Check the Data Liberation Front / Data Take Out.

Google actually are pretty good at providing that, and I think it does include search activity, if requested.

I'm only seeing the very few times I've signed into Google to upload a video to YouTube. I infrequently use Gmail on my Android but no signs of it in my activity - aren't Gmail logins along with location logged?

Wow the filtering controls are pretty terrible. No way to type in dates, for one.

You can use the epoch time in the url for the filtering. That is lot easier than using a picker.

Thanks for the tip!

Thanks - deleted all of my stuff and turned of all further collection.

gosh google...

Frustratingly, I think what "deleted all my stuff" might actually mean is "deleted my access to all of that stuff".

Even if it did delete it, it could also be "deleted this particular copy of my data"

Even if you were to delete your Google account, be assured that your data would remain safe with them.

Wow, my activity goes back all the way to 2006. While it is very interesting to see what I've been searching in 2006, it is also very scary knowing Google has this data.

There's a tool to bulk delete that data if you're not comfortable with it.


Huh, I turned off web search tracking years and years ago. Glad to see they (apparently) honored that and the only thing that was being tracked was the random youtube visit.

Just another way of saying that whether in the browser or mobile device and you're signed in to Google, any stuff you do that touches Google is being tracked.

When I want to download my searches, it goes up to 1 year. Does google not keep more than 1 year of data? Is it required to them to remove data after 1 year?

That is so crazy that do login is needed if you are already signed into Google. I am also surprised they are sharing this feature with users.

No activity. Some activity may not appear yet. :)

I'd switch to Apple the month it assures me it doesn't store all that data about myself.

Hmm. I'd have to sign in, giving up even more data. I'd rather delete all of my cookies every day.

I wonder how many Google staff can view these data for arbitrary user foo. Is LOVEINT an issue, as with NSA?

Great, let me waste some time analyzing an in-depth report on how I waste my time!

Yeah, all I have there are three Youtube videos I watched in 2015 (even though I do use my Youtube account almost daily). I'm content with this.

What I'm not content with is that they're showing it in a wrong language, but I guess I can't ask for good webdesign from someone like Google.

Is there a panic button that I can press now to 100% opt out of this ?

Google is effectively transforming itself from an ad company to a big/huge brother, the real big brother that now knows everything I do. Facebook is no better either.

Not that I'm aware.

You can delete / regenerate accounts.

If you've got a Google account in which you have a need for persistent data -- say, Gmail, Webmaster Tools, or YouTube, you might limit yourself to using those from only isolated accounts or tools.

Mind that using, say, the Android Gmail or YouTube app isn't sufficient for this as your Android device ID itself (which can also be regenerated) appears to be part of the information, and that these applications use the Android identity store to track IDs, which Google apps share amongst themselves.

Android as of 5.x does allow multiple device users, so you might split your use across multiple users.

For Gmail, you can enable IMAPS support and use a third-party IMAPS-enabled email app (K-Mail is a decent one for Android, it supports PGP as well).

Creating new Google accounts may demand you supply a phone number. I'm not sure where this is or isn't a requirement, and I've seen that come and go at various times.

There are alternative services, though these have their own issues. Google provides free-of-cost access, and using a paid service generally creates a payment-identity record should you use another service, as well as risks of service cancellation for non-payment. A long-term assurred service with privacy baked-in would be slick.

I've minimised though by no means eliminated my use of Google. I increasingly view it as directly hostile.

the disgusting part is that, that activities logging is all on by default, and when you delete them you have to pick one activity a time(there is no reset all logs to zero option), google you're indeed evil.

https://myactivity.google.com/delete-activity that does have an option to delete everything, just did that.

Their date widget is ridiculous.

It doesn't allow you to type dates. :sad:

An Analytics solution on top of this data would be amazing ..

I wonder if we can download/scrape all the data..

I was not expecting to see my Reddit activity on that list.

Where'd you see that, I don't see anything on mine.

My activity is full of Visited "then some link on reddit". Guess reddit accounts for majority of my visits, so maybe that's why.

I see web browsing history on mine, presumably because I am logged into chrome.

"You can easily delete specific items or entire topics. You can also change your settings and decide what data gets associated with your account."

I guess that's nice. I wonder if they'd still keep the original data points.

Of course they do. "Delete" in google/facebook/etc. just sets "visible to me" equal to false.

I doubt it. That would expose them to massive fines and exclusion from the entire EU market. Dark patterns in gathering information, as what Facebook has been doing with shadow profiles etc are bad enough - actually having a "delete" option that doesn't delete data (or storing data that a customer can't a) correct if wrong, and b) get actually deleted when they ask for it (and c) get a copy of on request) are all explicitly illegal in the EU, AFAIK.

The data is actually deleted (at least in the case of FB data) when you delete your account, having sat through several audit meetings and known people who wrote the deleter code. It is not instant, since some of the deletion has to be queued up in async jobs so that when cold storage platters are re-written it skips your photos, etc. And you are correct that EU regulations are the big stick which keep everyone toeing the line regarding what must be done when a user requests the deletion.

So what if I write a comment on someone's post, is that deleted?

Agree, assuming that this data is being secretly stored by major tech companies against stated privacy policies is abit tinfoil-hatty. The coverup that would be needed makes it highly unlikely. Not to say that smaller, niche, less scrutinized services don't pull this kind of crap - Ashley Madison is an excellent example.

You can't expect a company that runs its whole business through its Ireland subsidiary and had its offices raided by French and Spanish revenue authorities to play nicely by EU rules. In the UK they got a pat on the back and an extra 130M in taxes to pay. Of course they claim they did not break any laws and it's probably true - Google just found ways around them. I'm sure they've also found ways around EU data retention regulations.

The cynic in me would argue that EU tax loopholes are intentional, ways around the data retention directive, not so much. I suppose Google might have a secret deal with MI6 or some secret organization that no-one even knows exist (remember when the NSA was referred to as "No Such Agency" ?) - and get an exemption that way - through the "war on terror" back door, so to speak. But my impression is that the EU states prefer the Stasi-way - to have their own illegal secret archives rather than outsource that bit to private enterprises.

I wish they made it even easier, a delete all would be great, or a delete between these dates.

There's a "Delete Results" option in the three-dots menu. You can just search between two dates and then use that feature.

It is possible to do that on this page: https://myactivity.google.com/delete-activity

I turned on "Web and App Activity" and those items didn't then appear in my timeline. That might indicate that they don't but I doubt it.

Chances are that they fixed the bug so that items show up as per your opt-in status at that time.

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