How to Monitor and Protect Your Google Activity History

Google activity history

Imagine someone having access to all your documents, photos, and even your browsing history. It may sound like something out of 1984, but using Google’s products can be a nightmare for your privacy.

Despite this, Google Drive has over 200 million active users choosing to store their files with Google. Although Google offers many features with Drive, Chrome, and YouTube, and more,this convenience comes at a cost—your privacy.

As a result, we will look at Google Drive’s privacy policy across all its platforms, how to remove personal information from Google for free, and how to delete your Google activity history for a more private online experience.

Is my Google activity monitored?

According to Google’s privacy policy, Google collects and monitors your data to understand better the following information.

“The basic stuff like which language you speak, to more complex things like which ads you’ll find most useful, the people who matter most to you online, or which YouTube videos you might like. The information Google collects, and how that information is used, depends on how you use our services and how you manage your privacy controls.”

Even with such basic information, Google can still build a profile based on your location, habits, and interactions with others online. Once a profile is built, you may start seeing ads that privacy-conscious users may see as manipulative by influencing your decisions.

Google’s privacy policy doesn’t guarantee complete transparency about how that data is used; it can be complex, time-consuming, and subject to change at any moment.

What information does Google Drive collect?

When you store your files with Google Drive, you give them a broad range of information, as shown by their privacy policy.

“We also collect the content you create, upload, or receive from others when using our services. This includes things like email you write and receive, photos and videos you save, docs and spreadsheets you create, and comments you make on YouTube videos.”

By collecting this extensive data, Google paints a detailed picture of your digital habits and preferences. Although Google states this helps you better interact with its services, it can be used for various purposes beyond storing your files.

Internxt cloud storage is a privacy-focused alternative to Google.

So, if you’re wondering how my Google activity is monitored, the next sections will certainly interest you.

Content Analysis

Uploading a document to the cloud is straightforward and one of the basics when you want a secure option for storing your files online. Google’s policy suggests that it potentially analyzes things like identifying keywords and document types. This information may include private and sensitive information such as names, addresses, tax IDs, or more.

Activity Tracking

Google Drive logs your activity within the platform, as shown in this quote:

"Activity information from your use of Google Drive, such as the time, date, and duration of your activity, as well as search queries."

Activity tracking is a privacy concern because, over time, Google can monitor your tracking habits to build a profile on your Google activity history.

Imagine you need to access certain documents during tax season. By accessing them at the same time, Google can infer from your activity what you are working on. From there, you may start seeing target ads for filing your taxes on your browser or YouTube.

It doesn't stop there. Google writes they also track this data from your Youtube account:

  • Terms you search for
  • Videos you watch
  • Views and interactions with content and ads
  • Voice and audio information
  • Purchase activity
  • People with whom you communicate or share content
  • Activity on third-party sites and apps that use our services
  • Chrome browsing history you’ve synced with your Google Account

Device Fingerprinting

Google also collects an extensive data profile to create a unique fingerprint linked to your device. This includes:

“[...] browser type and settings, device type and settings, operating system, mobile network information including carrier name and phone number, and application version number. We also collect information about the interaction of your apps, browsers, and devices with our services, including IP address, crash reports, system activity, and the date, time, and referrer URL of your request.”

Google can use this fingerprint to track your activity across different websites and platforms, even if you're not signed into your Google account. Google says

“we store the information that we collect with unique identifiers tied to the browser, application or device that you’re using.”

This can be particularly concerning if you're using a public network or work computer, where your browsing activity might not be private.

Internxt cloud storage is a privacy-focused alternative to Google.

Google’s lack of transparency creates privacy concerns because it doesn't specify what interactions are tracked.  For instance, is Google monitoring the content of your messages within a communication app, or just logging that you used the app to chat with someone?

File monitoring

At any time, Google may disclose your files to law enforcement or government agencies under certain circumstances.

“We may also disclose information about you if we determine that for purposes of national security, law enforcement, or other issues of public importance, disclosure is necessary or appropriate."

Google’s privacy policy isn’t specific about what kind of evidence would trigger them to share content.

As a result, your files could be exposed to external parties without warning, which raises issues regarding freedom of speech or specific groups, such as political activists, being targeted to view their files.

Google will also take action to delete your files without warning if they feel its necessary.

"We may restrict or terminate your access to our services if you materially or repeatedly violate our Terms of Service or Privacy Policy."

This suggests that Google can act against your account if they detect illegal activity like storing pirated files. Despite whatever ethical issues surrounding pirating files illegally, there have been cases of Google unfairly deleting files from Google Drive without warning, causing users to lose all of their memories.

Google Drive security

With Google Drive, your data is safe but not private. Although they use industry-standard encryption to secure your files, Google is not a zero-knowledge company. Google owns the encryption keys for your data, so they can access your files or provide them to governments or law enforcement if required.

Google activity history and other privacy concerns

Google’s privacy policy extends beyond Google Drive and has caused concerns across its range of products that put your data at risk.

Tracking your activity in Incognito mode

Google privacy issues also occurred regarding how data was collected in incognito mode. Google agreed to settle a lawsuit that claimed it secretly tracked people who thought they were surfing privately in Chrome.

Users alleged that Google’s analytics, cookies, and apps improperly tracked those who set Google’s Chrome browser to “incognito” mode and other browsers to “private” browsing mode.

Google continued learning about users’ browsing habits from incognito mode, tricking users into believing they were browsing privately.

Because of the lawsuit, Google will update disclosures about what it collects in “private” browsing and let incognito users block third-party cookies for five years. For now, this is what Google writes in its privacy policy regarding incognito mode:

"Your activity might still be visible to websites you visit.  For example, websites might still collect cookies or track your activity subject to their own privacy policies."

If you want to keep your browsing habits completely private, even in incognito mode, it is best to stay far away from Chrome and find the best private browser for you.

Third-party privacy access to data

Google was again targeted for privacy concerns regarding its relationships with third parties and what data they can access, according to Google:

“Google might share your data with third-party service providers who help them operate and maintain Google Drive. However, the policy states these providers are obligated to maintain confidentiality.”

This limited transparency limits your control over your data if you consent to these services. In addition, the specific details of these service providers' data security practices might not be readily available to you. The more your data is shared with external companies, the greater the risk for data breaches or hacks.

Internxt is a cloud storage service based on encryption and privacy.

How to remove personal information from Google for free

Becoming familiar with Google’s privacy policy is the first step in knowing how to remove personal information from Google for free. Once you understand these policies, you can take actionable steps to control the privacy of your Google activity history.

Google Drive privacy settings

The first step to ensuring a more private experience in Google Drive is limiting who you share your files with and controlling access to just the necessary audience. To choose who you share files with and how they can use your file, follow these steps.

  1. On your computer, go to Google Drive.
  2. Select the file you want to share
  3. Enter the email address you want to share with. If you use a work or school account, you can share with suggested recipients.
  4. Uncheck "Show suggested recipients in the sharing dialog."
  5. Decide how people can use your file. Select viewer, commentator, or editor.
  6. Click Send or Share.

Manage activity controls

You can manage your activity controls and Google results about you, including web and YouTube or ad tracking activity, from your account settings. Here’s how

  1. Go to your Google account settings page.
  2. In the left navigation bar, click on "Data & privacy."
Google data and privacy
google.com

3. To  limit Google’s access to your data by selecting relevant options from the data and privacy page.

Google data and privacy options
google.com

4. To pause activity tracking, select your option and click “Pause”

Google history settings
google.com

5. You can also add more privacy options from the subsections of each category for increased privacy.

Turn off personalized ads

To limit data tracking and personalized ads, go to

  1. Data and privacy settings
  2. Personalized ads
  3. My Ad Centre
  4. Turn off
Google personalized ads
google.com
Internxt is a cloud storage service based on encryption and privacy.

How can I delete my Google activity history?

You have two options: you can either download your data to understand how it is used and export it to a more secure provider or monitor it more closely. To delete your Google activity history, scroll down the data and privacy page from your Google account settings and click 'download' or 'delete a Google service '.

delete my activity from Google
google.com

Another option to eliminate Google results about you is to switch to private alternatives to Google Drive, Chrome, and Gmail.

Find alternatives to Google’s products

Another method you should know when thinking about removing personal information from Google for free is to switch to privacy-focused services.

Luckily, many alternatives are free or offer free accounts to move away from Google. Here are the most popular options to some of Google’s products.

Cloud storage: Internxt Drive

For all the things Google does badly for cloud storage privacy, Internxt excels in providing trustworthy online storage. Internxt Drive is open-source to provide complete transparency regarding how your data is protected.

It also offers end-to-end encryption and is a zero-knowledge company, meaning nobody, not even Internxt, can view, access, or analyze any file you store in Internxt Drive.

Independent security experts have audited Internxt to ensure your files are kept private and secure from data breaches. Unlike Google, Internxt follows stricter European laws to ensure your data is handled securely. Internxt secures your files across multiple European servers

Internxt is a cloud storage service based on encryption and privacy.

Internxt secures your files across multiple European servers in smaller, encrypted files, so no hacker can access a complete file if the worst-case scenario occurs.

You can anonymously subscribe to Internxt and get up to 10GB of free storage or enjoy flexible and affordable monthly, annual, or lifetime plans. Internxt Drive is the best, most secure cloud storage you can trust for your files and data protection.

Alternative to Chrome: Tor

Tor browser is an open-source platform known for its complete anonymity, so you don't need to worry about Google results about you making its way on the platform. Tor is well known for its privacy because it wraps your information in multiple layers of encryption, like an onion.

The Tor Browser protects you against tracking, surveillance, and censorship. Your requests are sent via multiple servers (owned by unknown volunteers) when you connect to the Tor network, which is again encrypted and sent via multiple secure channels before reaching its final destination.

Although this privacy may compromise your internet speed, Tor is the true privacy browser if you want complete privacy, which is why it is so popular for surfing the dark web.

Alternative to Gmail: StartMail

While you can also check how to make your Gmail more private with privacy settings, several encrypted email services are available.

StartMail offers an alternative to Gmail for users who prioritize email privacy. Unlike Gmail, StartMail uses end-to-end encryption, scrambling your emails from sending to receiving. This means only you and the recipient can read the contents.

Thanks to their zero-knowledge architecture, StartMail cannot access your emails, meaning they don't store your decryption keys. StartMail offers more control over your privacy too, with features like expiring emails and anonymous sending.

Another option is using a temporary email. While not a permanent solution, it is a useful anonymous email where you can send emails to sign up for online accounts without bombarding your own account with spam.

Deleting your Google activity history completely

If you want to completely eliminate Google from your life to limit Google results about you and your Google activity history, you may be interested in DeGoogling.

To DeGoogle Your Life is finding alternative services and platforms that offer similar functionality and stronger respect for user privacy. For example, some alternatives to YouTube can be:

  • Vimeo,
  • Dailymotion,
  • Twitch.

For Google Maps, you have

  • OsmAnd
  • Sygic maps
  • Here WeGo

Bear in mind that Degoogling and deleting your Google activity history may be a more time-consuming process that can’t be done overnight.

But slowly moving your data and switching to privacy-focused solutions will certainly help you delete your Google activity history and Google results about you.

Internxt is a cloud storage service based on encryption and privacy.

Fighting back against Google privacy issues

Now that you know how to remove personal information from Google for free via Google’s data and privacy settings or by switching to private services, you can enjoy a more secure online lifestyle.

It's important to note that a new Google privacy policy can be updated at any time, so it's important to regularly monitor your account settings and stay up to date in the privacy community to keep your data protected against these unclear and potentially dangerous policies Google implements.