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4 ways your Android device is tracking you (and how to stop it)

Ben Patterson | April 14, 2015
Android keeps everything you do on your device--even voice commands. But you do have some control over the data.

cell phone stock image

So there I was, poking around some of the more arcane settings on my Moto G, when I stumbled across something that took me aback: an archive of every voice command I'd ever spoken to my phone.

Turns out that each time you say something to the Google Now search box, Android saves a copy of what you said in your "Voice & Audio" history. Your voice history can go back months or even years, and it includes a transcript of what you said plus a playback button, so you can relive the moment.

That's not all. Your Android device--and, indeed, all your Google accounts, mobile or otherwise--can also save a "history" of your web searches and clicks, as well as what you've searched for and watched on YouTube. Android can also save a map of where you and your phone or tablet have been, even when you weren't actively using your handset.

Creepy? Well, that depends on how paranoid you are. According to Google, saving your Android activity is the best way of generating search results that seem to be reading your mind, boosting the quality of its voice recognition, suggesting nearby restaurants where you may want to eat, and so on. Google swears up and down that you, and only you, have access to your Android history.

You also have the option of turning your history off--or, at the very least, you can take a peek at what's being saved. Read on for four ways your Android device is watching you, starting with...

Your web history

Every time you search the web using Chrome on your Android device--or using Google in a desktop browser, for that matter--Google takes note of what you searched for and which results you clicked.

In addition to making your search results more relevant, your Google "web history" can make for a handy, fascinating, and/or creepy way of tracking what you've been searching on over the past days, weeks, months, and even years.

Open the Applications drawer (typically, by tapping a button in the dock at the bottom of your Android home screen), tap the Google Settings icon (it looks like a gear), tap Account History, tap Web & App Activity, and finally tap the Manage History button. Voilà: your Google web history, in all its exhaustive glory.

You can search your web history using the Search box at the top of the page, or you can delete individual items by checking the appropriate boxes and clicking the Remove Items button.

To delete a big chunk of your web history--or all of it--tap the Settings button (the one shaped like a gear) just below the Search box, tap Remove Items, then choose how much to delete: the past hour's worth, a day, a week, a month, or absolutely everything.

 

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