It's common knowledge nowadays that most web-based companies track almost everything you do online. It's how they know you looked for new jeans last week, and why ads for those jeans seem to follow you around on all your favorite sites.
For those of us who want a more in-depth look at what we've done online, beyond what a simple search history would provide, Google has introduced My Activity, a searchable history of your online activities. My Activity will show you what you've searched for, what sites you've visited, and how you've used Google's products online.
SEE: How to delete your OK Google Now audio search history (TechRepublic)
The My Activity page offers a general search bar where users can search for any terms related to what they've done online. For example, searching for "Kanye West" will show you all of his music videos you may have watched on YouTube, as well as any articles you read or pages you visited that mention the infamous rapper.
Additionally, users can click on an individual item to see what time the page was visited along with the browser and device it was viewed on. If this kind of access weirds you out, don't worry—you can delete items from the list as well.
Depending on the activity settings the user has enabled, it can also save information from third party sites as well. So, as ZDNet's Liam Tung points out, if you use Chrome to watch Netflix, My Activity could be able to tell you what movie or TV show you watched. However, it should be noted that when I tried out the My Activity page using my personal Google account, I was presented with a long list of YouTube videos I have never watched, which could have been sponsored content set to autoplay.
The privacy-conscious among you will be happy to know that you can adjust your settings in the Privacy Checkup. Users can even suspend, or pause, web and application activity tracking for My Activity, but that could mess with your autocomplete settings.
SEE: Five ways to delete yourself from the internet (CNET)
Along with My Activity comes additional control over the ads that are displayed to you online. Users will now be able to opt-in to activity tracking for ads and, if they do, will be able to show more relevant ads or block certain ads.
Users can also get even more granular control over the ads presented to them in the Privacy Checkup by changing their ad settings here.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Google's new My Activity page shows users a searchable history of their online activity, including many actions taken across Google's suite of products and services.
- Users can change their settings for ultimate privacy, or for ultimate personalization, depending on how much of their online activity they allow Google to track.
- The launch of My Activity comes with new control for ads, including an opt-in approach and the ability to block ads.
- Google Chrome security tips for the paranoid at heart (TechRepublic)
- Google's Awareness API is out but comes with battery drain, spam warning (ZDNet)
- Google's mobile web report card: Free tool tells if you fail the test (TechRepublic)
- What Google needs to beat the iPhone (ZDNet)
- How to migrate contacts to a different Google account on your Android device (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.