Yes, You Should Absolutely Password Protect Your Google Activity

It's an open book of your online escapades

Key Takeaways

  • Google now allows you to enable two-step verification and password protection to your My Activity Page.
  • Without any verification systems, your My Activity page can be openly accessed by anyone with access to a device with your Google account logged into it.
  • Experts say two-step verification is reasonable, but consumers should still take steps to protect and delete their browsing data often to help lower the risk of personal data being leaked.
Someone using a smartphone with a laptop computer in the background.

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Without a password, your online web activity across multiple Google platforms could be an exploitable treasure trove of personal data.

Just about everything you do online is tracked in some way. If you use Google platforms like YouTube, Google Search, or even Google Maps, all that data is tracked and conveniently stored on your Google My Activity page. The idea is to give you a way to go back and look through your data whenever you need to re-explore those searches and answers. The problem is, convenience puts a lot of your personal data at risk, which is why Google has added a password verification system to that page.

"Google provides users access to their complete history of Web and App Activity, the most valuable (and potentially risky) of which is the complete record of your Google Search and Assistant queries," Rob Shavell, a privacy expert and CEO of DeleteMe, told Lifewire in an email. 

"In the past, this was accessible to anyone using a machine already logged into an account. Adding the extra layer of identity-confirmation/password protection helps ensure any unattended devices, or those which remain logged on indefinitely, are not readily accessible by other household members or office-colleagues." 

Renewed Focus

Adding Password verification to your My Activity page is a step in the right direction and just one part of Google’s renewed focus to put more consumer privacy features in the hands of its users. 

Screenshot of deleting history on Google Activity.

The reason that privacy protection on your My Activity page is so important is that it creates a detailed list of everything you’ve done while logged into your Google account. Every location you’ve visited, every search you've made on Google, and every request that you’ve filed through Google Assistant.

Google makes using your account on multiple devices extremely convenient, which means it can be easy to walk away from a public computer without logging out completely. Without a password set up, this page becomes an open book to anyone with access to a device that your Google account is logged into. 

Others can look through all the searches you’ve made, see what you’ve been doing on the web, and check any images that you’ve looked at, as well. Google also tracks and stores your YouTube video searches, as well as videos you’ve watched on YouTube, which means there's even more data that bad actors can collect and possibly use against you.

Protecting Your Data

While it is nice to see Google adding extra security layers to your browsing data, experts say that doesn’t mean that you can get complacent when protecting your own privacy.

"No matter which browser is used to browse the web, I strongly urge users to enable any extra security offered by the browser to protect your usage history."

"In the recent past, the approach many companies have taken is simply to bury this kind of transparency and control within layers of menus," Shavell explained. "As companies provide more transparency and access to users' own histories, they will also need to be more aware of the risks greater transparency potentially creates for those users should that information be unintentionally disclosed to third parties."

It’s also important to note that adding two-step verification to your Google activity page isn’t going to stop your local browser from storing information about the sites you visit.

As such, consumer privacy experts like Chris Hauk from PixelPrivacy recommend clearing out your My Activity page data and browsing history or using systems like VPNs and Private Windows to help cut down on how well your browsing habits can be tracked.

"No matter which browser is used to browse the web, I strongly urge users to enable any extra security offered by the browser to protect your usage history. Using Incognito Mode is an excellent way to cover your tracks, as your history is not saved," he said. "Also, delete your history in normal tabs on a regular basis, or set your browser to forget your browsing history when it is closed, such as the feature offered by Firefox."

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