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How to protect your privacy on YouTube

There are some strategies you can follow

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

YouTube has become a ubiquitous part of our online world, one where privacy is an issue. Your video-watching habits may be open for the world to see, along with your likes, dislikes, and more. If you create and upload videos, you could accidentally give away private information like your address or phone number.

Here’s how to protect your privacy as much as possible when using the popular video site. Instructions are here for using YouTube on the web and via a mobile app; I used the mobile app on an iPhone, but the Android version should work about the same.

Hide your video preferences

Start off by controlling two of your most important privacy settings: your watching habits and likes.

YouTube privacy

On the web

  • Go to your YouTube 凯发k8官方旗舰店homepage. Click on your avatar icon and select “Settings” then “Privacy.”
  • The screen shows whether your liked videos, your subscriptions, and your saved playlists can be seen by the world or only by you.
  • Check the box next to each category you’d like to keep private, then click “Save.”
YouTube privacy
YouTube Privacy

On your mobile device

  • On the YouTube app, tap on your avatar icon in the top right corner of the window.
  • Select “My channel.”
  • Tap on the gear icon to the right of your name.
  • Under the subhead “Privacy,” you’ll be able to toggle on and off the ability to keep your liked videos, subscriptions, or saved playlists private.

Turn off or customize ad personalization

Google keeps track of the YouTube videos you watch, and it uses that information to deliver personalized ads. But if you don’t want your ad preferences tracked, you can turn it off. If you don’t mind personalized ads but still want some control over your privacy, you can delete some of the information Google has about your interests (for example, your taste in music).

On the web

  • Select “Settings” > “Privacy” and then click the Google Ads Settings link in the “Ads based on my interest” section of the page.
  • To turn off personalization, move the slider in the “Ad personalization” section to “Off.” (Note that this also turns it off for other Google services, such as search.)
  • If you want to tweak your ad settings instead, scroll down to the “How your ads are personalized” section of the page. Enjoy how much Google thinks it knows about you, then click one or more interests that are either wrong or that you simply don’t want Google to know about.
  • On the screen that appears, click “Turn off.”
  • You won’t be able to turn off the info about your age and gender, however. Click either and a screen appears with an “Update” option that lets you change the gender (to either male, female, or “rather not say”) or age. However, you can’t delete them.

Using the mobile YouTube app

  • In the YouTube app, tap “Library” (on the bottom of the screen) then “History.” Then tap the three-button menu and choose “History controls.”
  • Tap “Manage all activity,” and from the screen that appears, tap the three-button menu to the right of the Search field, and select “Other Google activity.”
  • Scroll down to the “Google Ads Settings” section and tap “Manage Ads Settings.” You’ll come to a page that lets you turn off or edit ad personalization as described previously.

Delete your watch and search history

When you’re signed into your Google account, YouTube keeps track of the videos you’ve viewed and your search history. You can delete any individual video, search, or all of them.

On the web

  • Go to your YouTube 凯发k8官方旗舰店homepage and click “History” on the left-hand menu. You’ll see a list of all of the YouTube videos you’ve watched.
  • Hover your mouse over any video you want to delete from your history, and click the X that appears to delete it.
  • To delete every single video, click “Clear All Watch History” from the right side of the page.
  • To stop YouTube from remembering your videos, click “Pause Watch History” on the right side of the page.
  • To do the same for your search history, select “Search history” on the right side of the page. Click the X next to any search to delete it, and click “Clear All Search History” to delete all searches. Click “Pause Search History” to pause searches.

Using the mobile YouTube app

  • Using the YouTube app, tap the Library icon on the lower right of the screen, then tap “History.” You’ll see a list of all the videos you’ve watched when signed into Google.
  • Tap the three-button menu next to any video you want to delete, then tap “Remove from Watch history” to delete it.
  • Tap the three-button menu on the upper-right of the screen and tap “History Controls.” Tap “Clear watch history” to remove all videos from your history, and “Clear search history” to remove all searches.
  • To stop YouTube from remembering your videos, move the slider next to “Pause watch history” to on, and to stop YouTube from remembering your searches, move the slider next to “Pause search history” to on.

Control the privacy of your own videos

If you post videos to YouTube, there’s a lot to worry about: notably, privacy-invading content in your videos. Make sure you don’t inadvertently include any information or pictures you don’t want made public, such as the number on your house or your car’s license plate. Pay close attention to backgrounds because that’s where personal images might slip through.

After taking care of that, do the following if you want only certain people, and not the public at large, to see your videos.

On the web

  • Go to your Creator Studio uploads page. Note that the Creator Studio (where YouTube videos are uploaded) has been updated recently; these instructions are for the most recent version.
  • Look for the column called “Visibility” and hover your mouse in that column for the video whose privacy you want to control.
  • Click on the drop-down arrow and choose either “Private” or “Unlisted.” A private video can’t be seen by anyone unless you share the URL with them. It won’t show up in searches, be posted on your channel, or appear in your feed, and it can’t be shared by others, show up in a channel section, or be commented on. An unlisted video won’t show up in searches, be posted to your channel, or show up in a subscriber feed, but it can be shared and commented on by others, and it will show up in a channel section.
  • To share a private or unlisted video, hover your mouse to the right of its description, click the three-button menu to the left of the Visibility column, then select “Get shareable link.” That copies the link to your clipboard; you can now use it to send the link through email, messaging, or however you like.
  • When uploading videos in the future, if you don’t want them to be public, choose either “Private” or “Unlisted” from the dialog box that appears when you upload.

Using the mobile YouTube app

  • Tap on your avatar icon in the upper right corner of the 凯发k8官方旗舰店home screen and select “My channel.”
  • You’ll come to a page that has your uploads, playlists, liked videos, saved playlists, and subscriptions. Each of your uploads will have, to the right of the name, three vertical dots. Tap on that.
  • On the pop-up menu, tap on “Edit.”
  • This is where you can edit the title, description, tags, location, and privacy of your video. Tap on “Privacy.” You can then select “Public,” “Unlisted,” or “Private.”

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