How to manage Gmail security and privacy settings

Gmail is one of the world’s most popular email services, with good reason. It’s free, has lots of great features, and has client apps for most platforms. However, most people don’t take the time to adjust security and privacy settings, and you really should. Here’s how to control Gmail privacy settings.

In this article we’ll show you how to adjust security settings for Gmail and for other Google services like Maps and search.

If you’re concerned about privacy and how much data your Mac stores, you should review it regularly. And before you update your Gmail settings, it makes sense to clear out old private data like browsing history and passwords.

I don’t usually recommend specific apps, but I’ve found that CleanMyMac X is the easiest way to carry out a privacy scan and clear off private data on your Mac. Just download, install, and launch it. Then click on the Privacy tool and press Scan. It’s really easy!

How to manage your Gmail security and privacy settings?

The first step is a quick security check up. 

Don’t worry, it’s painless!

1. Go to my account.google.com and click Sign In

2. Type in your Google user id and password

3. When you’ve logged in, you’ll see a window with ‘Welcome, [your name]’ and underneath that, four boxes. Look for the box that says ‘We keep your account protected.’

4. In that box, choose Get Started to begin the security check up

5. Hopefully, you’ll see a message saying ‘No issues found’, if not, follow the instructions on screen

6. Start with the Your devices section and click the arrow to see the devices

7. If there are any devices on the list you no longer use, click the three dots next to it and choose ‘Remove’

8. If you don’t recognise a device, click ‘Don’t recognise this device?’

9. Move on to the Recent Security Events section and review the events. If there are any you don’t recognise, click the link at the bottom of the list.

10. Check the verification methods under Sign in and Recovery. Review them and edit them if necessary by clicking the pencil icon or the ‘i’ to find out more.

11. Finally, check the Third Party Access section and make sure all the apps and services listed are ones you still use. If not, click Remove.

And that’s it! The security check is complete. 


Now it’s time to review your log in settings.

1. Click on Security in the left hand sidebar

2. In the Signing into Google section, click Password if you want to change your password. 

3. Decide whether you want to use your phone to sign in to your Google account.

4. You should turn on 2-step verification, it makes your account much more secure. Click on the 2-step verification section to get started, then follow the instructions on screen.

Now do a privacy check-up.

1. Select ‘Home’ in the sidebar

2. Choose ‘Manage your data and personalisation’.

3. Click Get Started in the Take the Privacy check-up section.

4. In the Personalise your Google experience section, read the description of each section and if you want to make changes, click the link at the bottom of the section.

5. If you use YouTube, click on ‘Manage what you share on YouTube’ and review the settings.

6. Change any that you’re not happy with, for example set ‘Keep my saved playlists private’ by checking the box next to it.

7. The next section relates to how people are able to contact you when you’re using Google services.  Check that your phone number is correct. If not, click Edit your phone numbers.

8. If you want people who know your phone number to be able to contact you using Google services, check the box.

9. If you want the same people to be able to find out more about you using the information you’ve given to Google, check that box too.

10. The next section is about Google+ but that has now closed, so you can ignore it.

11. Finally, if you want to control the kind of adverts Google shows you, select ‘Make ads more relevant to you’ and then choose ‘Manage your ad settings’

12. Click Privacy check-up at the top of the screen to go back to the previous page

Google listens to you using your phone’s microphone and records your voice? It does it so you can use Google Assistant and it recognises when you say ‘Ok, Google’ If you’re not comfortable with that, you can turn it off. Read on to find out how.

You’ll notice that there are lots more settings you can change on the Data & Personalisation page. Some of them duplicate what we covered in the security checkup and privacy checkup sections, and of the rest, some are more important than others. We’ll cover the most important ones in the rest of the article. Let’s start with that audio recording we mentioned.

Check audio recording permissions

1. In the Activity Controls section, look for Voice & Audio Activity and click on it.

2. If the switch is set to the "on" position it means Google is currently recording audio using the microphone on your devices. I don’t use Google Assistant, so I have set it to off, or paused as Google calls it. 

3. If you decide to keep it switched on, select Manage Activity to see and control what it records

4. If you don’t want Google tracking where you go, uncheck the Location History box

5. And if you don’t want to share information like calendar appointments and contacts with Google, uncheck that box.

Finally, scroll down to Download, delete, or make a plan for your data. This is where you can download all the data Google holds about you (including Gmail messages and attachments), delete it, or tell Google what you want it to do with your data when you close your account.

How to fully erase your web traces

To feel secure users need to occasionally wipe out all their privacy "entry points":

  • Wi-Fi networks list
  • Skype conversations
  • Recent downloads
  • Autofill values


This can be done, again, with a free version of CleanMyMac X. This app is notarized by Apple, so you’re safe using it.

We’ve all read the stories about how Google is a privacy nightmare, but the truth is it provides lots of tools to help you manage the data it holds about you. Follow the steps above to take control of your data and ensure you use Google safely.

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