How to Stop Google From Tracking You

You need to do more than turn off location services to hide your habits

You can turn off location tracking to prevent Google from monitoring your online behavior. However, you should be aware that such privacy settings are not wholesale evasions of Google's surveillance practices. Short of deleting your Google account and never using the search engine again, these are the most effective ways of limiting what habits Google can monitor.

Turn off Location Services

Google tracks your location in two ways:

  • Google apps, such as Google Maps and Waze, use GPS and location data from your phone or laptop to log data. This information may include restaurant reviews, addresses you enter into Google, your location when data is requested, and so on.
  • Android uses location tracking settings to send data to Google. That means if you have an Android device it will regularly feed data to Google.

Disabling location services on an Android device is simple. Go to Settings > Location and toggle the setting to the off position. You will find other settings under this menu that you may also wish to disable.

On a computer, navigate to your Google account's Activity controls and toggle Location History to the off position.

A screenshot of Google Location History on a computer screen

Disable Other Activity Tracking

Under Activity controls, you will also find settings for Web and App Activity, Device Information, Voice and Audio Activity, YouTube Search History, and YouTube Watch History. Disabling these will reconfigure your Google account for every device, including your computer, tablet, and smartphone.

Turn Off Google Ad Tracking

Navigate to Google’s ad tracking section and turn off Ad personalization. Additionally, select More Options and uncheck the box that allows Google to use your activity and information to personalize ads on websites and apps.

Screenshot of Google Ad Services

The Ad Settings menu also includes a link to AdChoices, a major ad network that tracks online behavior. This service is not run by Google, but you can opt out of it to further reduce monitoring.

Turn Off Package Tracking

Google can track packages you order online. Under your Google Dashboard, locate and select Package tracking, then select Turn Off to disable the service.

Screenshot of Google Dashboard

Remove Gmail Scans

If you have Gmail, you can disable the nudges and contact collection features. This prevents Google from scanning your messages, but it means you will have to manually keep track of emails and type in addresses.

  1. When logged into Gmail, select Settings in the upper right-hand corner (indicated by the gear icon).

  2. Under the General tab, scroll down to Nudges and uncheck both options.

    Excerpts from Gmail's General Settings page
  3. Next to Create contacts for auto-complete, select I'll add contacts myself.

Shut Off Google Calendar Scanning

Another way Google monitors your behavior is through Google Calendar. You may notice that flight or hotel reservations show up in Google Maps and Gmail alerts. To disable this service:

  1. Go to Google Calendar.

  2. Select the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner, then select Settings.

  3. On the left, select Events from Gmail.

  4. Deselect Automatically add events from Gmail to my calendar.

Remove Your Cache and Stop Syncing From Chrome

Google can also track you through the Chrome web browser. To disable this function:

  1. In Chrome, select the More menu indicated by three vertical dots in the upper-right corner, then select Settings.

  2. Select Sync and Google services > Manage sync. Toggle the Sync everything setting to the Off position to disable the entire suite of syncing.

  3. Return to the Settings menu. Under Privacy and Security, select More.

  4. Next to Send a "Do Not Track" request with your browsing traffic, turn the toggle to the On position. This setting is not legally binding, and so there is no guarantee that traffic will not be monitored and cached.

  5. Return to the Settings menu. Under Privacy and Security, select Site settings > Cookies and site data. This page has options for turning off tracking programs called cookies.

  6. Return to the Settings menu. Under Privacy and Security, select Clear browsing data. In the window that opens, select the Advanced tab and then set Time range to All Time. Choose the browsing data you'd like to clear and then select Clear data.

    Google's browser cache clearing tool

Cookies are also used for storing passwords and other useful data. Write down any relevant passwords or usernames before deleting your cookies.