How to change your Google privacy settings

With Google's new privacy policy in place, here are some ways to safeguard your information online.
Google's new privacy policy has some users worried about their personal information online. (Joerg Sarbach/Associated Press)

Google's highly publicized unified privacy policy takes effect Thursday, giving cautious internet users reason for pause and concern when it comes to their personal data.

Google says the new policy exists to create a singular experience across a variety of its platforms. For example, people who search "spaghetti recipes" on Google's search engine could then be greeted with videos on how to make spaghetti when they next visit YouTube.

While there is a heightened level of convenience possible with these integrated features, some people may not be comfortable with Google pulling together all their personal information in one place.

Here are some ways to safeguard your privacy on Google platforms.

Log out

Aside from simply avoiding Google-based websites, the simplest way to protect your information is to not sign in when searching and browsing. This means Gmail, Google+ or YouTube accounts. While this lends itself to a slightly less personalized experience across those platforms, Google can't add data to your profile when it doesn't know who you are.

Avoid personal information

Refrain from putting personal information like your name, address, phone number, social insurance number and credit card information into a search engine.

Know Google's products

While it's fairly well-known that Google owns Gmail, Google+ and YouTube, it also owns:

  • Picasa — an online photo-sharing site.
  • Blogger — a well-known blog publishing tool.
  • FeedBurner — a management tool used by bloggers and to manage RSS (syndicated content) feeds.
  • RightsFlow — a music rights management service.
  • Zagat — a restaurant review site.
  • Android — the open source operating system for smartphones.

Google also owns a slew of other services and websites.

Remove Google search history

To remove your search history:

Collection of your history will be paused until you enable it again.

Not saving Gmail chats

In a nod to journalistic integrity, Gmail chats can be made "off the record." Off-the-record chats will not be stored in the history of either participant in the conversation. None of your conversations with this person will be saved until you change the status. To go off the record:

  • Hit the "actions" link at the top right of the chat window.
  • Click "Go off the record."
  • Both you and the other person will see a notification that the chat has been taken off the record.

Note that this must be done with each conversation you don't want saved.

Clearing your YouTube history

To remove your YouTube history:

  • First sign in on Google's main page, and then click on the "YouTube" tab in the toolbar at the top of the page.
  • On the right of the page, click your user name and select "video manager."
  • Hit "history" on the left of the page and then "clear viewing history."
  • Refresh the page and then click "pause viewing history."

YouTube searches can be cleared by performing the same steps, but selecting "clear search history."

Clearing your browsing history on Google Chrome

To remove your history in Google's browser:

  • First click on the wrench icon at the far right of your toolbar, and select "tools."
  • Hit "clear browsing data."
  • In the next box, click the "clear browsing data" box.
  • Select "beginning of time" to clear the entirety of your browsing history, then click "clear browsing history."

Liberate your data

Users can find information on moving their data in or out of Google products on its data liberation site. This resource lets you download any personal information Google may have, then remove it manually if need be.

Hide your IP address

An IP address acts as a kind of "digital fingerprint" on the web. Users can hide their IP addresses by using a proxy server. There are websites and assorted software packages that can hide an IP address and provide anonymous searching.


Adam Carter


Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at