How to Manage Your YouTube Privacy Settings

How to Manage Your YouTube Privacy Settings

How to Manage Your YouTube Privacy Settings
How to Manage Your YouTube Privacy Settings

When you watch your favorite videos on YouTube, it probably never occurs to you that YouTube is watching you back. A large amount of personal information about you is being collected, analyzed, and stored. Plus, given YouTube’s relationship with Google, your YouTube activity is likely connected to your real name (unless you’re using a secondary Google account).

The good news is you can improve your online security by changing just a few privacy settings on YouTube, all without costing you any of the features of the service.

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How to Edit YouTube’s Privacy Settings

To access your privacy settings, start by opening up YouTube’s home page. Next, find your account settings by clicking your avatar in the top-right-hand corner, and clicking the gear icon, highlighted below.

Next, find the option for “Privacy” in the left-hand menu.

This is where you can edit what the public can and can’t see when they search for your profile.

To turn off public visibility for videos you’ve liked and channels you’ve subscribed to, be sure that the following two boxes are checked.

Below this, you’ll find the option to manage what appears in your Activity Feed. The Activity Feed keeps track of actions like adding videos to public playlists, as well as any time you subscribe to a new channel, (not to be confused with subscriptions you’ve already set up beforehand).

How to Change Your Privacy Settings on YouTube

YouTube allows you to manage some of the information that it shares with other users, such as your playlists and current subscriptions, in your YouTube settings area. You can change these settings via the website or YouTube app.

If you want to change your YouTube privacy settings on PC or Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Open the YouTube website and sign in.
  2. Click the menu icon on the left, then press Settings.
  3. Press Privacy in the left-hand menu.
  4. To hide your playlists, press the Keep all my saved playlists private slider.
  5. To hide your subscriptions, press the Keep all my subscriptions private slider.

If you want to change your YouTube privacy settings on Android, iPhone, or iPad devices, follow these steps:

  1. Open the YouTube app and sign in.
  2. Select your account icon in the top-right.
  3. From the menu, press Your channel.
  4. In your YouTube channel profile, press Edit Channel.
  5. To hide your playlists, press the Keep all my saved playlists private slider.
  6. To hide your subscriptions, press the Keep all my subscriptions private slider.

How to Improve Your YouTube Privacy Settings

As we mentioned above, YouTube collects an enormous amount of personal information on you to create targeted ads, which is how they make their money. However, the platform does offer its users the ability to opt out of some intrusive policies and make changes to their profiles to improve their overall privacy.

But where to start? Below are our recommendations for improving your YouTube privacy settings and profile setup.

1. Blocking Personalized Ads on YouTube

There’s absolutely no doubt that personalized ads are a menace to online privacy. They often go overboard, tracking your movements from one site to the next. YouTube, via its parent company Google, is no exception.

While you could try ad-blocking extensions in your browser, these don’t always work well with video playback sites. Sites like YouTube and Twitch may actively stop video playback if ads are blocked.

Thankfully, there’s a way to stop seeing personalized ads on YouTube without this happening. You’ll still see ads, but they won’t be targeting you based on your web activity.

How to Block Personalized Ads on YouTube

To block YouTube ads from using your private data, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Open the Google Ad Settings website using a web browser and sign in using your Google account.
  2. Once you’ve signed in, select the Ad personalization slider, making sure it’s in the Off position.
  3. Confirm your choice in the pop-up by pressing Turn Off.

2. Take Control Of Your YouTube Watch And Search History

To improve your privacy on the YouTube app, the first step is to opt out of YouTube’s ability to keep your watch and search history.

Every time you watch a video, even for just a few moments, it is added to your watch history. This is part of the data YouTube uses to create your profile. Meanwhile, your search history is the record of searches you perform on YouTube itself.

How to opt out of YouTube watch and search history

To opt out of logging your search and watch history on the YouTube app, follow the steps below:

  1. Click on the slider next to Pause watch history.
  2. Click on the slider next to Pause search history.

How to clear your YouTube watch and search history

To completely clear your YouTube to watch and search history on the app:

  1. Click on Clear watch history at the top of the screen.
  2. Click Clean search history.

How to stop YouTube from logging your watch and search history

To stop YouTube from logging your watch and search history online, follow these steps.

  1. On the left-hand menu, click History.
  2. Click Watch and Search History.
  3. Click Saving Activity.
  4. Click Turn Off to stop YouTube from logging your search and watch history. Note that, if you want to allow YouTube to continue to log one of these areas, simply uncheck the box next to the applicable selection.

3. Protecting Yourself Online

Boosting your YouTube privacy settings is just one way to help protect yourself online. For example, you may wish to password-protect your Google account history to stop it from being monitored by others. It’s also a good idea to activate two-factor authentication on your Google account to stop it from being accessed elsewhere.

If you’re really paranoid, you may want to try a virtual private network — Private Internet Access (PIA), for example. VPNs encrypt your data and anonymize you online, making it safe for you to visit websites and watch videos you want without being tracked. You could also try privacy-focused browsers like Epic Privacy or Brave to help boost your protection online too.

4. How To Turn Off Ad Personalization

To control how YouTube shows ads based on your profile, you’ll have to update your ‘Google Ads Settings’ as they control the ad settings for all of Google, not just YouTube. Here’s how you can do this.

  1. Whether you’re on the app or website, click on the icon in the top right-hand corner.
  2. Next, click on Privacy (website) or Privacy & History (mobile app)
  3. If you’re on the website, you will see the Manage what you share on the YouTube screen.
  4. If you are on the mobile app, you will see the Privacy and History settings screen.
  5. From the website, click on the Google Ads Settings link to be taken to the Google Ads Settings screen.

To be taken to the Google Ads Settings screen from the mobile app, simply click on Ads Settings from the Privacy and History menu.

5. How To Turn On YouTube Incognito Mode

If you prefer to keep the convenience of having YouTube show your search and viewing history but want to exclude a particular video without manually removing it, YouTube incognito mode is the answer.

Videos searched for and watched in “incognito” mode will not be added to your search or watch history. Currently, YouTube incognito mode is only available on the YouTube app.

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How to Tweak Your Ad Settings and Connected Accounts

Next, there’s Google Ad Settings. This section doesn’t control information that’s publicly available as a part of your profile, but rather what kind of data Google will collect on you for specifically tailored YouTube ads.

To configure this section, navigate to the bottom of the Privacy page, and click on the link highlighted below:

As we mentioned in our companion article on this subject, most of the data collected for these ads is pretty innocuous, and will only identify you on the broadest spectrum. The ads are based on things like the types of YouTube content you watch, the searches you make inside the Google ecosystem, or the pages you visit while using the Chrome web browser.

You can add or delete any interests in this section in case you want to specifically tailor which ads are displayed to you. Sometimes the algorithm that detects the data for your interests can swing and miss hard, and if that happens, just de-select the checkbox next to the topic to prevent it from showing up again.


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