How to Stop Google From Tracking You

You need to do more than turn off location services

A man with Google's logo projected on his face

 JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

If you’re concerned about what Google knows about you and your habits, it’s easy to take control back, whether you want to shut off specific features like Google location tracking or get the company out of your life entirely.

If you don’t want to completely delete your Google account and never use Google again, though, these steps and settings will severely limit what Google can find.

  1. Shut off Location Services and GPS on your phone. Google tracks your location in two ways.

    • First, Google apps, such as Google Maps and Waze, use GPS and location data from your phone and laptop to log data such as addresses you enter into Google, where you access specific data such as restaurant reviews, and so on.
    • Secondly, Android has location tracking settings that send data to Google, so if you have an Android device, it will regularly feed data to Google.

    Disabling location services on your Android is simple. Find the Location menu under Settings and turn it off. You might notice additional settings under that menu; go in and turn off those apps as well. GPS can be shut off from your pull-down menu. 

    For your computer, toggle off Location History from your account’s Activity controls.

    A screenshot of Google Location History on a computer screen
  2. End other activity tracking. Under Activity controls, you’ll also find settings for Web and App Activity, Device Information, Voice and Audio Activity, YouTube Search History, and YouTube Watch History. You can toggle these off from this page, which will reconfigure your entire account across your computer, tablet, and smartphone.

  3. Remove Google Ad Tracking. You’ll need to go to Google’s ad tracking section and toggle off ad personalization. Additionally, select More Options and uncheck the box that allows Google to use your activity & information to personalize ads on websites and apps.

    Screenshot of Google Ad Services

    Google also offers a link to AdChoices, another major ad network that tracks you, but you can opt out of. It’s not run by Google, but it will help reduce location tracking online.

  4. Shutdown Package Tracking. Yes, Google can track your packages. Under your Google Dashboard, find Package tracking and select it, then select Turn Off to shut it off.

    Screenshot of Google Dashboard
  5. Remove Gmail scans. If you have Gmail, another step you can take is to disable the nudges and contact collection features. Select the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner and, under General, you’ll find these options. Next to Nudges, uncheck both options, and next to Create Contacts, select I'll add contacts myself.

    Excerpts from Gmail's General Settings page
  6. Shut off Google Calendar scanning. Another way Google tracks you is through Google Calendar. You might notice that if you have a flight or hotel reservation, it’ll turn up on Google Maps and you’ll receive Gmail alerts. To disable it:

    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.
  7. Remove your cache and stop syncing from Chrome. Google can also track you through the Chrome web browser. To stop that:

    1. If Chrome isn't already open, launch it. Select the three dots in the upper right-hand corner then select Settings.
    2. First, you’ll see the option to disable syncing between your browser and other apps and tools. Select Turn Off and it’ll disable the entire suite of syncing.
    3. Next, scroll down and select Advanced. Under Privacy and Security and enable Do Not Track.
    4. However, Do Not Track isn’t a legally binding option, so next, select Content Settings. This will take you to a page where you can shut off tracking programs called cookies.
      1. Note: Keep in mind that cookies are also used for features like storing your password, so write down any relevant passwords and usernames before deleting your cookies.
    5. Return to the advanced settings page and select Clear browsing data. Choose the Advanced tab in the window that opens and set the Time range to All Time.
    Google's browser cache clearing tool

    Again, this will log you out of everything, so write down any relevant data you'll need. This may also interfere with the streaming you do through your devices such as your laptop and phone, as you’ll need to delete media licenses.

  8. You're done!