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Google Gmail follows the purchase history – how you can delete it

Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google, was sworn in during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., US, on Tuesday, December 11, 2018.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Google keeps track of what you buy, even if you have bought it somewhere else, such as in a store or at Amazon.

Last week CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a New York Times opinion that & # 39; privacy cannot be a luxury good & # 39 ;. But behind the scenes, Google still collects a lot of personal information about the services you use, such as Gmail, and some of them cannot be easily removed.

A page called "Purchases" shows an accurate list of many – but not all – things that I have purchased that date back to at least 2012. I made these purchases using online services or apps such as Amazon, DoorDash or Seamless, or in stores. like Macy & # 39; s, but never directly through Google.

But because the digital receipts went to my Gmail account, Google has a list with information about my buying behavior.

Google even knows things that I had long forgotten that I had bought, such as clothing shoes that I bought in a Macy store on September 14, 2015. It also has:

  • I ordered a Philly cheesesteak on a hoagie roll with Cheez Whiz and banana peppers on January 14, 2016.
  • I reloaded my Starbucks card in November 2014.
  • I bought a new Kindle from Amazon on December 18, 2013.
  • I bought "Solo: A Star Wars Story" from iTunes on September 14, 2018.

And so on.

View this example, which relates to some of the things I bought in the last week:

A list of my purchases that Google has retrieved from Gmail.

Todd Haselton CNBC

Go here to view your own site: http://myaccount.google.com/purchases.

"To help you easily view and track your purchases, bookings, and subscriptions in one place, we've created a private destination that can only be viewed by you," a Google spokesperson told CNBC. "You can remove this information at any time. We do not use information from your Gmail messages to show you advertisements, and that includes the email confirmations and confirmations that appear on the Purchase Page."

But there is no easy way to remove all this. You can delete all receipts in your Gmail inbox and archived messages. But if you look like me, you can save coupons in Gmail in case you need them later for return. To remove them from Google Purchases and save them in your Gmail inbox, you must delete them one by one on the Purchases page. It would take forever to do that for years of purchase information.

You must delete each purchase manually – or from Gmail – to get rid of it.

Todd Haselton CNBC

The Google privacy page says that only you can view your purchases. But it says "Information about your orders can also be stored with your activity in other Google services & # 39; and that you can view and delete this information on a separate page & # 39; My activity & # 39 ;.

Except that you can't. The Google activity options page does not allow you to manage the data stored in Purchases

Google has told CNBC that you can completely disable tracking, but you must go to another page for search settings preferences. It is strange that this is not central to Google's new privacy page & # 39; s, or even to Google's privacy check.

To quit, go to www.google.com/preferences and choose & # 39; Do not use private results & # 39 ;. But this still doesn't delete everything it has already collected.

Google says it does not use your Gmail to display your ads and promises that it will not sell your personal information, including your Gmail and Google account information, and that it will not share your personal information with advertisers unless you have asked us about "

But for reasons that are not silent, it is not clear, it extracts that information from your Gmail and dumps it into a "Purchases" page that most people don't seem to know exist. Even if it is not used for advertising, there is no clear reason why Google should track years of purchases and make it difficult to remove that information. Google says it wants to simplify settings for easier management.

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