HOWTO turn off Google's search-history logging and erase your stored history

With Google's privacy policy change looming, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a guide to turning off Google's search-history logging, thus preventing your search-history from all of Google's services, including YouTube, from being merged and tracked together. You can also erase your stored search-history while you're there.

On March 1st, Google will implement its new, unified privacy policy, which will affect data Google has collected on you prior to March 1st as well as data it collects on you in the future. Until now, your Google Web History (your Google searches and sites visited) was cordoned off from Google's other products. This protection was especially important because search data can reveal particularly sensitive information about you, including facts about your location, interests, age, sexual orientation, religion, health concerns, and more. If you want to keep Google from combining your Web History with the data they have gathered about you in their other products, such as YouTube or Google Plus, you may want to remove all items from your Web History and stop your Web History from being recorded in the future.

How to Remove Your Google Search History Before Google's New Privacy Policy Takes Effect


  1. Wow. A strange feeling looking at my search history. It really puts into perspective how not private Google is. It’s one thing to think of your search history on some server somewhere, it’s another thing to actually see it recorded. Thanks for posting.

  2. I may be wrong, but getting rid of that just means they are not using it for ads and search results. It still exists though. I would be more curious to see what they “really” have, even thought I block most of their scripts and cookies, and have never had history turned on in the last several years.

    1. Yeah I just checked this and mine’s been turned off for a long time, yet they still manage to tailor my information for their ad partners. Very odd. 

      1. Same here. Mine is off. But google ads still target my browsing history.

        For instance, after watching die antwoord’s last video, out of curiosity I googled the black-out contact lenses used in the video. The vendor whose site I visited appeared in google ads for a few days following.

  3. I have an easier method!  Use Bing, then it doesn’t matter that you’re logged into Gmail when you search.

  4. For those of us who never bothered to get actual Google or Youtube accounts, is there any other potential loss of privacy on the side? IP address based search history tracking, perhaps? Would we even know, much less be able to do anything about it if so?

  5. Didn’t you have to turn on your search history anyway?  I think I recall it asking me at one point if I wanted to do it.

  6. The directions aren’t working for me. I can log in and go to https://www. google. com/history [I broke the link, okay?] and I get a page pressuring me to enable web history. So there’s no button for ‘remove all web history.’

    1. I got the same, and to take one for the team, I tried enabling it. The history came up blank, but with the option to Remove All. Selecting it turned the history back off again.

    2. Me too. I was advised to turn it on, remove all, and turn it off again like Chenille just did. Counter-intuitive and ridiculous. But I guess that’s how you’ll have to do it.

      1.  wait, what?  you’re saying that if I don’t enable it then disable it now, after the 1st, google will enable it by default?

        aw, eff it, may as well just go through the motions, eh?

    3. Same here. Can somebody please confirm that it possible to disable history somewhere else, maybe in the gmail profile or something… I’m pretty sure that I would have turn something like this off when I first registered years ago and that’s why it is not enabled right now.

  7. I believe that ‘.’ is correct; this doesn’t eliminate it, it simply makes it unavailable to  you. Here’s what Google itself says:

    “You can delete information from Web History using the remove feature, and it will be removed from the service.

    However, as is common practice in the industry, and as outlined in the Google Privacy Policy, Google maintains a separate logs system for auditing purposes and to help us improve the quality of our services for users.”

    So, the history is still being recorded and retained, you just can’t see it.

    If you’re logged out, it’s still linked to a Google cookie. If you use the same machine and IP address for both logged in and logged out searches, guess what? Your logged out searchs are *still* linked to your logged in Google ID, since they use the same cookie.

    Unfortunately, Firefox no longer lets you selectively block cookies (it used to). I don’t know about other browsers.

    Since Google has driven Scroogle off the net, your options are limited. I used DuckDuckGo by preference.

    1. those separate logs are things like web server logs, firewall logs, application logs, database logs… Google has more of them than you could ever imagine and just about every site you go to has them. If you’re really paranoid about your IP showing up in them use TOR.

    2.  Try the Ghostery add-on for Firefox. It allows you to block all sorts of trackers on a one-by-one basis.

      1.  I just discovered Ghostery a couple of weeks ago.  It’s incredibly excellent.  Everyone, go get it.  If you set it to block everything as I did, you will have to selectively unblock a few things to get things like this comment section to work, but you can leave most things blocked.
        It’s educational to watch the Ghostery icon while surfing.  It’s not unusual to see a single web page tracking you via a dozen different analytics, web ad placement systems, stats gatherers, etc.

    3. I just checked. Firefox still lets you selectively block cookies. Under options,privacy, and in history. Where it says Firefox will: select use custom settings for history. I have Accept cookies from sites and Accept third-party cookies checked, but have Keep until set to ask me every time. That gives me a dialog for anything that I haven’t visited or allowed explicitly before. Most sites I set to session only, if they actually need a cookie to function. Most are deny.

      Lack of cool cookie handing is one major reason I won’t use other browsers unless I have to.

  8. I may need to be more… caring… about my privatedata… but I love my stored history. I go through it at least 5 times a year looking for something. It’s pretty amazing. The other day I was looking for this guy who makes bicycle rims. I searched my history and found it. I also was immediatley transported to the day I found it. I saw all my searches and that lead to a ton of memories.

    Yes it’s scary but it’s like a time machine for me. I want that :(

    1. Yeah, it’d be great if it were only a time machine for just you.  Trouble is, it’s a time machine for whomever Google allows to peek at it.

      1. You have a firefox history that goes back to 2007ish, from every computer you’ve logged in to gmail on and searched with?

        1. I don’t use gmail. Or rather, I have a gmail account that I never use and consciously log out of on the very rare occasions that I log into it. Firefox can save my browsing history forever and sync it across installs, if I wish it to do so.  I don’t know why I’d want to do that, though. I clear it every once in a while when I get a wild hair up my arse. If I encounter something I think I might want to see again, I bookmark it. I sync my bookmarks across all my FF installs.

    2. I just checked and saw that at least on Firefox, your local history goes back quite a ways. Mine was to November 2010 and the first entry was firefox update.

      1. I don’t have the stickwithitness to maintain that. I had a laptop, desktop, and 3 work machines… one in each OS flavor. Ironically… I’m actually looking into deleting my whole google account and starting fresh. The google dash scares me… I just want it all gone save gmail…

        1.  I doubt you can keep gmail and dump everything else.
          I recently went to self-hosted mail and pulled everything from gmail.  I can’t get them to give up the data that they’ve already seen, but I don’t have to continue letting them get more.
          I give up a little convenience, but not that much.  I leave a few weeks worth on my server at a time and can access it via SquirrelMail.  Older stuff I have to go to my local client for (or the copy on the encrypted thumb drive on my key ring)

  9. Seriously, there’s not an app that would allow us to retain our browsing history without Google scraping it? Or am I mistaken as to what the issue is? Are we talking about search terms exclusively, or also about  what links we follow?
    Like BeaverBeaver, I often resort to my history to access finds I didn’t, for whatever reason, feel the need to bookmark at the time. What’s a poor soul to do, oh my!

    1.  There is an app. It’s called ‘your browser’. :)

      Firefox normally stores 6 months of history, but if you want more, you can add to the browser.history_expire_days.mirror setting in about:config.

  10. Huh. I suspect I’m in the minority as someone who immediately logs off their Google account before using Google search. I only stay logged in while using Gmail–for all other internet activity, I’m always logged off.

    1. Could be. I am rarely ever logged in when I search, and I pretty much only access gmail through thunderbird. Also Gmail is only used for account signups and throw away use. Nothing of actual value goes through there.

    2. You’re not the only one.  I not only log off, I delete the tab before moving on to whatever else, just as I do for any site that has my financial info.

  11. You don’t need to do step one. 

    Try this. 

    1. Go to and log in to your account
    2. Select Remove all Web History.  You will get this message: 

    Remove all Web History for ly******* Are you sure you want to clear your entire web history? Your web history will also be paused.

    3. Select O.K. 

    Google does make one interesting point. If someone else is using your account, your web history is a good way to find out.

    1.  Yo dawg! We heard you like snooping, so we put some snooping in your snooping so you can see who’s snooping on you while you’re being snooped!

  12. Google will track what I do either way. With web history turned on, at least I can see what I’ve done.

  13. It’s probably a good thing that we are having our details amassed by computers. When the world ends and all that is left is a large, clever and very lonely computer, a vast simluation (like the Matrix) will run and it will be inhabited by Sims that represent our personalities based on our recorded online activity. Our decisions will shape the brains of our virtual twins, digital doppelgangers that believe that they are real (and indeed the real us) although we actually died long ago. If you just go online for porn and that is the only side Google or Facebook or whatever sees, your future digital self will be a sex crazed maniac (even if you’re not really one in real life). Perhaps this has already happened.

  14. Mine was off too. I love living in this information age, but the fact that any information gathered and stored by Google could be sought by law enforcement is simply worrying.

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