How to delete your Google browsing history in three simple steps . . . before it's too late to hide your secrets
But there is one way to stymie the web giant's attempts to build a permanent profile of you that could include personal information including age, gender, locality and even sexuality.
From March 1, you won't be able to opt out of the new policy, which has been criticised by privacy campaigners who have filed a complaint to U.S. regulators.
But before that date you can delete your browsing history and, which will limit the extent to which Google records your every move - including your embarrasing secrets. Here's how:
1. Go to the Google homepage and sign into your account. Use the dropdown menu under your name in the upper right-hand corner to access your settings. Click on 'account settings', like below.
2. Next, find the section called 'Services' and you'll see a link to 'View, enable, or disable web history', shown in the red box below. Click on it.
3. Finally, you can remove all of your search details by clicking on 'Remove Web History', shown in the red box below. Once you have done this your history will remain disabled until you turn it back on.
Although disabling web history will not prevent Google from gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes, but it mean the Web giant will anonymise the data in 18 months.
It will also prevent it from certain kinds of uses, including sending you customized search results.
If you don't sign in, Google will track your searches via the computer's IP address. The only way to clear your personal history is by signing in.
While it is not known exactly how Google would use your combined information, the policy has been widely criticised.
The Center for Digital Democracy has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
It has asked the FTC to sue Google to stop the policy change and to fine the company.
If successful, the the FTC can impose fines up to $16,000 per day for each violation.
Privacy problems are particularly pertinent to those who share a Google account with other members of their family.
For example if one person searches for pictures of scantily clad women, the next family member to use the internet may find themselves being recommended a bikini contest on YouTube.
Cecilia Kang, of the Washington Post, described collation of vast tracts of information as a ‘massive cauldron of data.’
‘Privacy advocates say Google's changes betray users who are not accustomed to having their information shared across different Web sites.’ she said.
‘A user of Gmail, for instance, may send messages about a private meeting with a colleague and may not want the location of that meeting to be thrown into Google's massive cauldron of data or used for Google's maps application.’
Technology site Gizmodo said that the change was the end of Google’s ‘don’t be evil motto.
The site’s Mat Honan wrote: ‘It means that things you could do in relative anonymity today, will be explicitly associated with your name, your face, your phone number.
Larry Dignan, meanwhile, writing on ZDnet.com, described the new policy as ‘Big Brother-ish’.