Have you ever noticed that Youtube’s initial page shows videos that are related to those that you have viewed in the past? While one could argue that it is convenient, I am a bit disturbed that Youtube remembers my past viewing history. Worse, now that Google has purchased Youtube, that viewing history is tied to my user account (which includes Gmail and Google+). I just don’t feel comfortable allowing Google and Youtube to track my searching and viewing habits. Thankfully, there are ways to disable the tracking function.
Update: Google has created a My Activity webpage showing all the info it has stored regarding your activities, including Alexa and Android phone speech-to-text audio recordings. Go to the page, delete any recorded activities, click on “Activity Controls”, and disable/pause all future recordings.
Because Google has not fully integrated with Youtube, there are three separate settings that we need to turn off: prevent Google from recording web searches, prevent Youtube from recording video searches, and prevent Youtube from remembering videos watched.
Note: If you have trouble getting any Youtube functions like adding/deleting channels to work (ex: the page would freeze), make sure to allow third-party cookies on your browser.
Prevent Google From Recording Web Searches
- Browse to Google’s Web History Settings page. Sign into Google if you need to.
- Click the “delete all” link in the paragraph to clear the search history. To confirm, click the “Delete all” button.
- Click the “Turn off” button to disable web history. The related text will change to “Web History is off”.
Prevent Youtube From Recording Video Searches
- Browse to Youtube’s My Search History page.
- Click the “Clear all search history” button to delete any remembered video searches. To confirm, click the “Clear all search history” button in the popup window.
- Click the “Search History” link again and click the “Pause search history” button to disable recording video searches.
Prevent Youtube From Recording Watched Videos
- Browse to Youtube’s Watch History page.
- Click the “Clear all watch history” button to delete all the remembered watched videos. To confirm, click the “Clear all watch history” button in the popup window.
- Click the “Pause watch history” to prevent Youtube from remembering the videos that you watch.
Doing the above will preserve your privacy. Below are additional security measures concerning Youtube and Google+ which you might want to take.
Keep Youtube Likes And Subscriptions Private
- Browse to Youtube’s Account Settings page.
- Click the Privacy link on the left.
- On the right content pane, check both of these options, “Keep all my likes private” and “Keep all my subscriptions private”.
- Click the Save button on the top-right to commit your changes.
Disconnect Youtube From Google+
Unfortunately and all too easily, Google will create a Google+ profile for you, a Youtube account for you, a Youtube public channel for you, and link that Youtube channel to your Google+ profile. All you have to do is to click the wrong Google link or browse to the wrong Google page while signed in. Here’s how to undo some of the damage.
Determine if you have a Google+ profile and whether a Youtube channel is connected to it or not:
- Browse to Google’s Account page Click the “Sign In” button if you are not already logged in.
- Click the Products link to the left to view all the Google products your account is using.
- If you see a Google+ product icon, then you have a Google+ profile. (If you don’t see the Google+ product icon, then the rest of these instructions are unnecessary.)
- Click the Google+ product icon to go to your Google+ account.
- On the Google+ account page, there is a drop-down list on the top-left that is labeled Home. Click the drop-down list and select Profile to see your profile.
- Under the photo banner, you will see a horizontal list of links starting with the About link. If you see a Youtube link, then your Google+ profile has a Youtube channel connected.
Strangely, the above is not valid for a Google/Youtube identity attached to your Google account which has a linked Google+ page (different from a Google+ profile). That is, the Google+ product icon won’t be visible even if an associated identity has a Google+ page. Supposedly, if you create a Youtube channel with a name different than your suggested Google account name (using the “business or other name” option), Google will create a new identity with a Youtube channel attached to a Google+ page. When you sign into Youtube, Youtube will ask you which identity to use with a “Use Youtube as…” prompt. You can delete the Google+ page only after deleting the Youtube channel; Google does not allow you to unlink a Google+ page from its associated Youtube channel.
Disconnect your Youtube channel from Google+ (to remove the Youtube link from your Google+ profile):
- Browse to Youtube’s Account Settings page.
- Near the top-middle is your profile with photo and email address. If you don’t see a “Return name to… and disconnect Google+ profile” link next to your profile info, then do the following:
- Click the Advanced link next to your profile info.
- Note: If you see a “Delete channel” button near the bottom-middle of the Advanced page, then your Youtube channel is not associated with your Google+ profile. In this case, you don’t need to do anything further. (The “Delete channel” button would not be visible if the Youtube channel is associated to a Google+ profile.)
- Under “Channel settings”, click the “Create custom URL” link.
- Input a custom name. If you plan to keep the public Youtube channel even after disconnecting it from Google+, you will want to carefully select an appropriate name. Otherwise, you can just input a random string of letters and numbers.
- Click the “Create Channel URL” button.
- When you click the Overview link again, you should now see the “Return name to… and disconnect Google+ profile” link.
- Click the “Return name to… and disconnect Google+ profile” link. Click the OK button to confirm.
- Click the Overview link again. You will see a new “Link channel with Google+” link on the right of your profile info.
Delete Youtube Channel
- Browse to Youtube’s Advanced Account Settings page.
- Click the “Delete channel” button. To confirm, click the “Delete channel” button again.
- If you don’t see the “Delete channel” button, then your Youtube channel is connected to your Google+ profile. Follow the “Disconnect your Youtube channel from Google+” steps above to disconnect your Youtube channel.
- If you are using an alternate Google identity when signed into Youtube, you will see the “Delete channel” button even if there is a Google+ page attached (your Youtube overview profile info will have an “Edit on Google+” link next to the channel name). You cannot disconnect the Youtube channel from the Google+ page. You will need to delete the Youtube channel first before you can delete the Google+ page.
- If you see an error message, “You have either created this channel or closed another account too recently, please try again later”, when attempting to delete the Youtube channel, wait 24 hours and try again.
Unfortunately, there is no way to delete the Youtube account without deleting your Google account. However, there is a way to delete the Google+ profile.
Delete Google+ Profile
- Browse to Google’s Account page.
- Click the “Delete profile and remove related Google+ features” link at the bottom-middle.
- Check the two options at the bottom, “Also unfollow me from anyone I am following in other Google products” and “Required: I understand that deleting this service can’t be undone and the data I delete can’t be restored”.
- Click the “Remove selected services” button.
- If you go back to view the list of Google products attached to your account, you will no longer see the Google+ product icon.
Delete Google+ Page
- Note: You must delete the Youtube channel linked to the Google+ page before you can delete the Google+ page.
- Browse to the Google+ Dashboard. The top-left dropdown list will have Pages selected by default.
- In the middle pane, you should see your Google+ page listed. Click on the “Manage this page” button.
- You will be taken to the Overview for the Google+ page.
- Click the Settings link at the end of the top horizontal list of options. If you don’t see Settings, click on the More link and then select Settings.
- Click the “Delete page” link at the bottom of the Settings page.
- On the confirm page, check all three checkboxes and click the DELETE button.