Google Settings Is a Very Useful Android App That You Probably Ignored
Back in 2013, Google quietly added the Google Settings app to Android (not to be confused with the regular Android Settings app). It didn’t have a lot at first, but over the years it has added a ton of useful features, especially for those who care about privacy. If you haven’t checked it in a while, it’s worth taking another look.
Disable a ton of activity tracking in your account history
In the Account History section, the first section of the app, you’ll find options to turn off a number of Google tracking. Some sections only allow you to turn off tracking, but others actually allow you to see your history. What is available through this application is a bit surprising:
- App and Web Search History : This allows you to see almost everything that you have visited or searched for using your Google device. This includes the history of your website visits (on any platforms that have tracking enabled) as well as searches through the Google app. This is similar to what you can find here .
- Device Information: Here you can turn off data synchronization between your device and your account. This includes things like contacts, calendars, and other device data. Note that in the Google Settings app, this is an all or nothing toggle. If you only want to turn off certain data, go to the regular app Settings> Accounts> your Google account and turn off syncing for specific services.
- Voice and Audio History: This controls the collection of your Google voice data. At first glance it looks like it’s just stored on the server side for research purposes (that’s how Google speech recognition got just as good ), but you can also click the Manage History button to see all your voice queries with audio. … This includes voice commands, so if you (or someone is following) want to hear you speak when you asked Google Now to go home, you can do so here. It’s also a handy place to remove requests / commands from your history.
- YouTube Search History: This is where you can see (and delete) everything you searched for on YouTube. Disabling search history here will disable it for your entire account, so YouTube on desktop won’t remember your history either. However, Google warns that the Android app has app and device-level tracking that doesn’t rely on account-level history, and you might also need to turn it off if you don’t want YouTube to remember anything.
- YouTube Browsing History: Yes, that’s a separate thing. What you are looking for and what you are watching is tracked in two different categories, so unless you want Google (or anyone else) to know that you have watched a looped K-Pop girl group playlist during the week, you will also want to. turn it off.
- Google Location History: Here you can see which devices have location history enabled and optionally delete your location data. Unlike some other categories, you cannot view your location data here, but you can stop tracking or delete your entire history if you like.
If there was nothing else in the Google Settings app, all of this would be worth taking a look at. Google tracks a lot of what you do on your phone. While not everyone has problems collecting some data, it is important to know how to stop it .
Get fewer creepy ads by turning off interest tracking
It is well known that Google tracks your data in order to send you more targeted ads. Some see this as an acceptable compromise. However, it can get frustrating when you get ads for what you want, but you don’t know how the advertiser got to know what you want. As we discussed earlier , you can turn off interest-based advertising in the Ads section of your Google settings. This should prevent targeted ads and give you generic ones instead. You can also reset your ad ID if you’re happy with targeted ads but have been getting some weird ads lately.
Revoke access to your account from connected apps
Like Facebook and Twitter, Google allows your login information to be used to sign in to other services . This means that third parties like IFTTT, Pocket or yes even Kinja may have access to certain privileges for your Google account. We already recommend using services like MyPermissions to clean up old logins, but you can also see which sites have access to your Google account in the Connected Apps section of Google Settings.
See which apps are using your location
Location tracking is not only a privacy issue, but it can also drain your battery if it is used too much. The Location section in Google Settings allows you to toggle between High Precision Mode or Battery Saver Mode. More importantly, it gives you a list of the apps that asked for your location, as well as how much battery they are using to do so. This is especially handy for finding any rogue apps.
This is far from a complete list, but it is by far some of the most useful Google settings features. You can also view or disconnect devices connected to Google Fit, manage Play Games settings, or disable certain features of Android Device Manager (although this is actually not recommended). Google’s settings can be updated through Play services , so even if you checked them when you first got your device, it’s worth checking them again from time to time.