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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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). 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.
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!