Google has been quietly keeping track of your online purchase history for years. It does it by scanning your Gmail messages for digital retail receipts for services, physical and digital items. Google says the feature is to allow its users to keep track of its purchases in one place. Of course, since the company tracks your location and web activity, it’s not difficult to assume it uses the data for targeted ads, too. Here is how to find out what Google knows about your online purchases and delete it.
Find and Remove What Google Knows You Buy
To see what Google knows about your purchases, head to https://myaccount.google.com/purchases and log into your account if you aren’t already. There you will find a list of items you have purchased from Google and other locations online. Anything you have bought online, and the receipt is sent to your Gmail account, it should be listed.
When I checked mine, I found it has tracked items as far back as 2013. And most of the items I actually bought from Google. But if you use Gmail as your main email service, you’ll undoubtedly find a lot more.
You can delete items from the list, but it’s a chore, to say the least. To do it, click on the item and on the following page click the “Remove Purchase” button and then the “View Email” button.
Now delete the email that contains the receipt. That removes it from your “Purchases” list. But if you really want that receipt gone, you need to go into the “Trash” section and delete it forever. However, it’s worth noting that Google does empty your trash every 30 days.
Keep in mind that you will need to do that for each individual item on your purchased list. But remember, while you can delete the purchase history (or any other data) that Google keeps, there’s a copy of it stored on its servers somewhere. But now that you know about it, there is some peace of mind knowing you can manage it, kinda.
Avoid Purchase and Other Tracking
There is currently no way to turn this tracking behavior off. But there are a few ways to avoid having Google getting a record of your purchase history in the first place.
But using a different free email service is not necessarily the answer. For example, we found out Yahoo scans your email and sells your data. But you might consider a privacy-focused email service like Proton Mail or Fast Mail. Another thing worth considering is using a “burner email account” from a service like 10MinuteMail.
Also, depending on the retailer, you can opt to print out your receipt as a PDF and not have it to your email address.
Google knows a lot about us and our behavior. But the company is starting to provide users with more control over privacy. For example, you can now make Google automatically delete your location and web activity data. And in your My Account Dashboard there are ways to delete what the search giant collects. And stop some of the tracking in the first place. You just need to know where to look.