Android Security

Android Users: How to Stop Giving so Much Personal Information to Google

Bertel King 06-05-2015

If you’re using an Android phone or tablet, Google is already tracking a lot of information about you.


They do make it easy to close your account entirely, but most of us probably aren’t looking to disconnect that much — especially since you need a Google account to download apps from Google Play.

So cutting Google out completely is not what this guide is about.We’ve already covered how to remove all your data from Google How To Clear Your Data From Google & Attempt To Regain Some Of Your Privacy Wiping all trace of you from the web is not easy, but after reading Dragnet Nation by Julia Angwin you might just want to try. It's time to stop willingly throwing away your privacy. Read More , but this is a guide for those of you who love your Android device but are already looking to dial back how much data you give Google. Frankly, there are a lot of places to check, and while this list may not be comprehensive, I hope to cover the big things.


The vast majority of Google’s offerings don’t cost users a thing. This is because the tech giant derives most of its income from ads, and these affect you whether you have a Google account or not. The company uses tracking cookies and other methods to build an advertising profile around you How Much Does Google Really Know About You? Google is no champion of user privacy, but you might be surprised just how much they know. Read More .

It’s difficult to avoid them while navigating the web How Exactly Websites Track and Stalk You With Their Ads Privacy, privacy, privacy. The Internet is known for its anonymity. Without personal privacy, it would be a very dangerous place. But are these companies infringing on privacy rights? How exactly does a website track its... Read More , but you can use your account to see some of this information for yourself. On Google’s ad settings page, you can tweak certain details to make them more accurate and opt-out out of a interest-based ads.




Google’s primary business is search, so let’s address that next. The company not only saves a record of every webpage you visit, it keeps track of everything you type into the search bar, whether on the desktop or the Google Now app for Android.

On Android, this includes the seemingly local searches you perform to find apps saved on your phone. Fortunately, Google makes this information easily accessible at the top of its account history page, where you can opt not to save everything. So after you browse through Google’s record of your activity, feel free to turn it off. And adjust your search preferences while you’re at it.


When you use Gmail, Google obviously stores a copy of everything you send on its servers. That’s simply an inherent part of how email works. But Google also scans your mail to send you ads. And not just text either — it scans images too The Gmail Panopticon: The End of Privacy as We Know It? Your emails are being read. What does this mean for online privacy going forward? Read More . If you want out, your only option is to remove Gmail from your account and find a more secure email provider The 5 Most Secure and Encrypted Email Providers Fed up with government and third-party surveillance of your emails? Protect your messages with a secure encrypted email service. Read More .




One of the perks of using an Android device since the early days has been watching your contacts move smoothly from one device to another. This is because everything syncs to your Google account.

Of course, this means that the company stores all of this data. Considering that you’re saving phone numbers along with both email and street addresses, this is really personal information. You have the option to delete contacts one at a time if you wish, but we recommend you save the contacts to your device or in a good old-fashioned paper address book before you do.

For most Android devices, exporting your contacts to your SIM card involves going into the People app, selecting Settings, and then Export Contacts to SIM, though these instructions can vary from device to device thanks to heavily customized Android skins Android Skins Explained: How Do Hardware Makers Change Stock Android? Hardware makers like to take Android and morph it into something that is entirely their own, but is this a good or a bad thing? Take a look and compare these different Android skins. Read More .


Just like contacts, your calendar events sync as well. Only in this case, you can’t remove them from your account without losing access to Google Calendar entirely. But if you have a third-party app that you would rather use instead, you can export your calendars before deleting all of your events.



Whether Google mines the files in your Drive account the way it does Gmail is unclear, but either way, any documents you save on their servers remain available to them if at any point in the future they change their minds. Even if this doesn’t concern you, you may still want to toggle which third-party apps have access to your data. You can manage this in Drive’s settings in a web browser.


As for getting rid of your Drive documents (including content saved in Docs, Sheets, and Slides), that amounts to highlighting each file and selecting delete, followed by emptying the trash. Google may not immediately purge this data from its servers, but at least it won’t be visible to anyone who happens to gain access to your account, maliciously or otherwise.


Google+ has its own set of privacy concerns. Like any social network, you have to set things up so that posts only go out to the people you intend for them to. You have to also make sure you aren’t projecting your location out with everything that you send.


Who can invite you to join communities or tag you in photos? Did you want your Google+ profile to show up in Gmail Google+ Meets Gmail: Everything You Need To Know About The Explosive Combo It's no secret that Google is working hard to push its social network into the mainstream. Google+ has been integrated into Gmail in several ways you should know about. Read More ? If this all seems like too much work, you can delete your Google+ account at the bottom of the settings page.

Google+ also is the service that can automatically backup your photos How to Backup Photos from a Mobile Device It's never fun when your phone breaks and you lose all your photos -- but that never has to happen again! Learn how to backup your photos quickly and easily. Read More  on Android, so you’ll probably want to open the app and go to Settings > Auto Backup and make sure that it is turned off.

Voice Searches & Commands

It’s very cool to say “OK Google” and have your phone answer any number of questions and obey commands OK, Google: 20 Useful Things You Can Say to Your Android Phone Google Assistant can help you get a lot done on your phone. Here are a whole bunch of basic but useful OK Google commands to try. Read More . Sometimes it will respond regardless of which screen you’re on 6 Google Now Features That Will Change How You Search You may already be using Google Now on your Android device, but are you getting all that you can out of it? Knowing about these small features can make a big difference. Read More . But by default, Google saves a recording of everything you say.

Don’t believe me? Go have a listen. If you’re like me, you will probably want to erase those and tell Google not to keep making copies.


Did you know Google tracks everywhere you go with your Android device? If not, then the information you see on this page might just freak you out.

Yup, that’s everywhere you’ve ever gone since buying your smartphone. If you find this more cool than creepy, carry on. Otherwise, you can tell Google to cut that out by toggling this setting off.

Just be careful. Certain apps, such as Google Now, try to turn this setting back on even when it isn’t a hard requirement. Keep a close eye on what prompts you say yes to.


Google Play

When you use Google Play to install content, Google has a list of everything you get. It’s part of the agreement, even if it’s just an implicit one. Unfortunately, this is just the nature of most cloud services. If you want out of the arrangement, your only real choice is to discontinue using the Play Store. That’s a big step, and I’m not saying you should go that far. But if you want to, here’s how to go back and clean your tracks.


There’s no fast way to erase all of the apps you’ve ever purchased, but you can delete items one at a time from the Play Store app. Select My apps from the navigation menu, switch to All, and tap the X on apps that you’ve uninstalled.



To clear those novels and comics you’ve purchased over the years, just head to your Play Books library and select the three dots at the bottom of each book to download files to your hard drive and delete them from the web.

Note, some (if not most) are locked down with DRM, so you can’t use them elsewhere without your account (though, technically, you can strip them of DRM if you so choose Calibre: Hands-Down, The Best eBook Manager Available Electronic media is no doubt more prevalent today than it ever has been. The Internet is at the core of it all, and because of it we have eBooks, web articles, and news from electronic... Read More ). There’s no option to wipe your entire collection at once, so you will need to do things one item at a time.


Google makes it easy to clear out the music in your library. Just go to Play Music settings and hit the Delete My Library button.

Movies & TV

There doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about this content. The most you can do is archive So if you don’t want a particular movie or show tied to your account for good, don’t buy it.


Just like with movies and TV shows, you’re stuck with your magazines and newspapers. If you don’t want Google keeping up with what you’re reading, subscribe elsewhere.


YouTube settings are available on the account history page. There you can pull up a list of every video you search for, delete the inquiries you would prefer to keep quiet, and tell Google not to save all of your searches. You can also find all the clips you’ve watched and give them the same treatment. And if you have your own channel, you can get rid of the stuff up there too.


How Much Info Are You Giving Google?

If there’s one thing you take away from this post, know that you can access a great deal of information straight from the Google dashboard.

Out of the box, Android devices turn most of these features on. So does Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, and every other service that the company produces. Google does a relatively good job of giving you control over your account, including the ability to export and download most of your data. But unless you make an active choice to manage settings, it will save and track everything by default.

Hopefully this guide helps you take control of your Google account.

If there’s another setting or app you would like to disable, feel free to chime in below!

Related topics: Google, Google Search, Online Privacy, Online Security.

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  1. Chris
    November 28, 2015 at 5:53 am

    I appreciate you putting together a comprehensive list of Google practices. Once a person is informed it's entirely up to them what they decide is best. My question is how do I get my contacts (complete with names, numbers, emails etc) off the Internet? I recently discovered all my personal information in it's entirety upon a Google search. I've tried for hours to rectify the problem to no avail. Do I just have to delete my Google plus account? I've found no clear cut answer and I'm very angry. I currently have a Samsung S4 running 4.4.2. I'm just stunned and really disturbed this information has compromised my privacy!

    Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide.

  2. Sheeva
    May 12, 2015 at 11:26 am

    I too manage what I give access to for any app. However, many of the "installed" apps by me in the early days before I knew what's what cannot be deleted from my android devices nor the Play store. These were not apps forced on me but ones that I actually installed thinking they would have some benefit but for sure haven't used since almost the beginning. Is there no way to uninstall them? Google's help/faq's were not helpful in the least.

  3. Belinda
    May 7, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    How do you stop people from knowing your exact location? Can't I turn this off

    • Rick
      May 8, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Settings>Location>Off will turn off location detection system wide. Of course, navigation, Google Now, perhaps some weather apps, hiking apps, etc., etc. won't work or will have reduced functionality.

  4. ReadandShare
    May 6, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    "Guess I better brace for negative responses now…."

    Nah... I agree with what you wrote. The reason so many of us have surrendered degrees of our privacy to Google is because Google really does provide some great products -- and often at zero cost to us, the users -- until our privacy dribbles out...

    I use Gmail, so naturally I use Google's Contacts, Calendar... and Voice. Who wants to maintain separate contact lists? I have yet to find any free alternatives that can match Google's.

    But I do try to limit my exposure to Google. I use two different browsers -- one exclusively for Google stuff (stated above). The second browser is for all other web surfing -- where Google cookies are strictly forbidden.

  5. Rick
    May 6, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Great article in one respect - everyone should definitely be fully aware of what information they are giving Google and how to access it and manage it. Especially, especially, when it comes to sensitive information. But once you are aware of that, and take proper precautions (like encrypting certain documents), you also have to consider that, yes, my info helps Google sell and target ads to me - but that seems a small price for all that I get in return and how this info also helps me in ways that I could never hope to emulate as fully and effectively on my own. Personally, I find almost all the services you mention incredibly useful or enjoyable in my daily life and synced across all my devices. I am not aware of any adverse effects that Google has caused me so far and I find my Android and Chrome OS devices to be things I find incredibly useful every single day. A lot of that stems from info I trust to Google.

    I use my search history regularly. I use Gmail every day and it works about as well, if not better than anything else available. I don't want to micromanage contacts for each device I use. If I add or remove a contact one place, I want that to reflect everywhere. The same goes for Google Calendar. Ditto Google Drive - I like being able to access my synced files from anywhere. Google Maps are awesome for navigation - but not if your location is unknown. My music everywhere? Check, if I'm using Google Play Music. Books too. I can't see where Google knowing what ebooks I bought from them is any different than Amazon knowing the same things. The same goes for digital movies - plus I don't have to store them locally if they are on Google's servers and tied to my account for access from anywhere whenever I want them. Give up YouTube? No thanks. Guess I better brace for negative responses now....

    • Krista
      May 7, 2015 at 3:26 am

      No negativity from me as if it matters. I think your reply was on target for those who aren't bothered by the info Google collects and the author of the original article is spot on for thise who are. Both were well worth reading.

    • Bertel
      May 7, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      No negativity from me either. I have disabled many of Google's services, but I've hardly cut myself off from all of them. The goal is for people to be aware how much information Google (and seemingly every other tech company these days) collects about you and make active choices. I, too, am not giving up YouTube any time soon (but I do tell Google not to display the history of every video I watch).

    • Rick
      May 7, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      I even find the YouTube view history very useful for refinding videos I don't want to add to my personal saved playlists. However, anything I might find awkward or embarrassing if someone were to inadvertently see it in my history, or anything I don't want influencing my "suggested videos" feed, I open in an incognito tab to avoid saving it to any histories. If I open it it a regular tab by accident, or it unexpectedly turns out to fit one of these three criteria, I manually delete it from my view history after watching it.

    • Constance denise moore
      May 7, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      Messing with Internet is very risky so we have to be careful.