Yes, Google is tracking your purchases, but this isn’t a new thing. Google’s collection mechanisms—information it pulls in from your Gmail — have been going on for some time. If this is your first time hearing about this mess, visit this page to see everything Google knows about your purchases around the web.
How does Google get your purchase information?
How does Google get this information? It’s easy. According to the company’s Help Centre document:
“Your purchases and reservations are brought together from across your Google Account, from sources including:
Orders placed using Google services, like Google Play Store, Google Express, or through the Google Assistant.
Order receipts or confirmations received in Gmail.”
Click on any purchase in this history to pull up details about it, and you can then click on the super-tiny “i” icon in the upper-right corner to see how, exactly, Google learned about any specific item you bought. Google will even give you a link to pull up the email related to the purchase, for example.
Can you stop Google from tracking your purchases?
I admit, Google’s implementation is handy if you’re trying to quickly see everything you purchased in a year so you can plan your itemised tax deductions.But if you don’t have a specific use case for this kind of a purchasing history, or you don’t like the idea that Google has stored this information somewhere that’s easy to access if someone breaks into your account, you don’t have anything you can do to stop it. Google provides no option to turn off this Gmail-scanning-and-saving feature—at least, not as of when we wrote this article.
How to delete your purchase history
There’s no mass-delete option that wipes this Purchases page clean. You can go through each item and use the “remove purchase” button to try and do that, but if these purchases were pulled from your Gmail, you’ll be reminded that the only way to make the purchase go away is to delete the email.
While deleting all of these emails will allow you to scrub your Purchases page clean, it could take some time to get through them all — and you’ll have to print those emails as a PDF, or even a hard copy, if you want to keep that record as a proof (or reminder) of purchases you made.
Despite all the convenience and quality of Google’s sprawling ecosystem, some users are fed up with the fishy privacy policies the company has recently implemented in Gmail, Chrome, and other services. To its credit, Google has made good changes in response to user feedback, but that doesn’t diminish the company’s looming shadow over the internet at large. If you’re ready to ditch Google, or even just reduce its presence in your digital life, this guide is here to help.
The only real option you have to escape Google’s Purchases page is to not use Gmail—but that’s not really something I bet most people will want to do, especially if they’ve spent a lot of years with their current email address.
Nevertheless, if you want to make the leap and build a little extra privacy around the messages you send and receive, some good alternative email services include ProtonMail, FastMail, and Tutanota. The catch? Their free versions, if they have any, aren’t as generous as Google’s offering.