This story has been updated. It was originally published on April 19, 2018.
Every time you run an online search, the sites where you have an account can record that information. This data – collected and stored by search engines like Google, social networks like Facebook and retail giants like Amazon – will not disappear when you clear your search history.
Reportedly, these sites use your search history to compile a profile of who they think you are, allowing them to show you content or products that they hope will appeal to you. Convenient for these technology companies, understanding your preferences also allows them to serve you targeted ads. On the other hand, the service may only collect this information while you are logged in to your account for that site. However, if you’re uncomfortable with this record of your past searches or don’t want to affect your future browsing (you may have initiated a lot of camping accessory queries but no longer want to see ads for related products), you can clear them of your existence.
To do this, you will need to go through your accounts one by one. Here’s how to clear your search history on some of the largest and most popular search engines, social networks, and retail sites.
How to clear your Google Account history
When you search for something with one of Google’s services – which includes email, maps, calendars, messaging, file storage, videos, and more – the service records that information. Your search history helps your technology company adjust your search results. For example, if you rarely search for sports-related terms, a new search for “dolphins” is more likely to apply to aquatic mammals than to Miami’s NFL team. Your data also tells Google which ads are more likely to click.
To delete this information, go to Google’s My Account page and sign in. Among the many options you will find pages on privacy, sharing and security. Find Data and privacy, and go to History settings title. Here you can see all your activity history or just peek into the history of locations or the history of YouTube. Choose one of these categories – or simply My activity to see everything – and click Delete below the activity search bar. Google will ask you for the time period you want to delete, but will only ask you to click Delete as an additional confirmation step if you choose All the time or set a Custom range. To delete individual items or entire history for one day, also click on x in addition to these entries.
And if you don’t want to keep doing it, you can go back to History settings title, click a category and select Turn off within its settings. This will pause the collection of history for this type of activity.
How to clear Bing search history
Not everyone relies on Google to search the web. If you use the Microsoft Bing search engine instead, you can still clear your history.
First go to the website and click Apply. Then click the menu button (three horizontal bars) in the upper right corner, and then Search history. Then find out Activity title, where you can check the boxes next to the individual items or one checkbox “select all”, followed by Clean in the trash everything you checked.
[Related: Google vs. DuckDuckGo vs. Bing—is it time to switch your search engine?]
If you have a Microsoft account, you can also find one Manage or delete your search history title and click Clean everything up to clear the entire search history of the device you are using or select Go to the dashboard, sign in to Microsoft and check the activity categories under Manage your activity data. Click one to expand it, and if there is some saved data, you should see the option to delete it all. For example, Microsoft Edge users will find their browsing history here.
How to delete your Facebook search history
While browsing Facebook, you can search for the page you are interested in, a friend’s name or an event. To see all your recent queries, open the Facebook website and click on the search box at the top of the page. If you want to delete these searches, click Edit button to the right of the result.
This will display a screen showing a complete record of everything you’ve ever searched for on Facebook. To remove one entry, click three dots to the right of the entry, then select Delete and confirm by pressing Delete again.
To view everything in your Facebook search history at once, click Delete searches in the upper right corner. This will delete all your past queries from Facebook servers.
How to delete search history on Twitter
Like Facebook, Twitter records your recent searches so you can easily re-access them. It also allows you to delete them.
To visit Twitter website and click on Search Twitter box at the top of the page. This will display your most recent queries as well as your saved searches – keywords that you told Twitter to save in case you want to run them multiple times. To save the current search, click three dots in the upper right corner of your search results and press Save search.
[Related: 8 tricks for making your Twitter feed less toxic]
However, if you would rather delete searches, the process is simple. Just click on x button to the right of any recent or saved search to remove it from the list, a confirmation screen is not required. To delete all recent searches at once, click Clean everything up and confirm by selecting Clean from the dialog box that appears. However, this only deletes your recently launched searches — your saved searches will remain intact.
How to hide your search history on Amazon
Unlike other sites on this list, Amazon doesn’t keep a diary of your search terms — at least not one that you can browse and browse. Instead, it records every item you look at on the site. This record affects your recommendations as well as the ads that run.
To see everything you’ve clicked on the site, go to Amazon, look at the toolbar at the top of the page, hover over the account name, and click Search history under Your account title. The results will appear in reverse chronological order, from newest to oldest.
Now, let me delete them. Click Remove out of sight below any item to, well, remove it from view. You used to be able to remove all the items at once, but it looks like Amazon has removed this option. It’s also not clear if Amazon is deleting its own record of these searches or they are simply becoming invisible to you and anyone looking at your account history. If you want Amazon to stop visibly tracking your browsing history, click Manage history and turn off the switch.