A common feature of modern computing is the browser history, which keeps track of all the web pages you’ve viewed and the time you spent on each. It can also be problematic; in fact, it’s almost cliched. Consider romantic flicks where a guy (it’s always a guy) gets into trouble after his sweetheart checks at his browsing history.
Sharing a computer is commonplace for most of us (setting up numerous user identities is regrettably not), and lending out a smartphone is not unheard of. If someone gets access to your devices, they can tell where you’ve been regardless of whether you encrypt your emails, use Tor and VPNs to browse anonymously, or sport a fake mustache at your workplace.
If you ever need to return to a possibly-forgotten area of the internet that you visited in the past, a browser will keep track of your history indefinitely. The truth is that your significant other, friends, coworkers, professors, and even the authorities may use it against you. Even if you never took the time to browse the website’s content, it is irrelevant. These days, a simple visit can trigger indignation, blackmail, or whatever retaliation you fear the most.
Consider that to be creating fear? For the vast majority of us, hopefully it is. However, keep in mind that in 2016, a worker was charged in a Canadian court of destroying evidence (Opens in a new window) after he deleted the browsing history from his own laptop. (He won out in the end.) The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (Opens in a new window) is a US law that was created to stop companies from deleting evidence, but at least one person has had it applied to them. (Caution: The individual in question (Opens in a new window) also committed a lot of other dumb acts.)
Let’s say that all you desire is a little online privacy and that you are not a criminal. What can you do to conceal your previous visits? Take them out. Regularly. Or, perhaps the best course of action is to never, ever save the data. Your web browsing may become a little less convenient, but security comes at a cost. To delete the browser history, follow these steps.
You cannot choose for Chrome to not save your browsing history. Even worse, Google is continuously logging your app and web activity. However, you can frequently delete it. Go to myactivity.google.com (Opens in a new window) and select Web and App Activity from the menu. Uncheck Turn on Auto-Delete and include Chrome History and Activity so that Google deletes everything older than three, eighteen, or three years (your choice). To erase even more, press Manage all Web andamp; App Activity (Opens in a new window) .
OPERA To access History in Opera, click the clock icon in the navigation bar on the left of the main menu. There is a Clear Browsing Data option that offers settings that are very similar to Chrome’s. This is due to the fact that Opera was created using the Chromium Project engine, which also powers both browsers. However, Opera provides a little extra for individuals who want to browse the internet safely through a built-in VPN option, which can be accessed at opera:/settings/vpn (type that in the address bar). To use it, you don’t need to install an extension.
You’ll find a link that says Choose what to clear every time you close the browser in Settings if you go back a step. To delete it each time, toggle the Browser History option.
Microsoft stores part of your web history similarly to Google. You can remove that synchronized browser activity history by visiting the privacy page on your Microsoft account (Opens in a new window) by clicking Manage your info.
Internet Explorer from Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) is still in use. You won’t stay for very long. For those who are still using the old browser, you can clear your history in IE11 and IE10 by clicking the Gear icon in the upper left and choosing Internet Options. Click the Delete button or choose the checkbox next to Delete browsing history on exit on the General page to immediately delete all history, passwords, cookies, cached information (also known as temporary internet files and website files), and other items.
If you choose Settings instead, you are taken to the History tab where you may specify that your history is only stored for a certain number of days and that anything older is automatically deleted.
Using the Favorites Menu, you have the option to delete your browsing history. Select the History tab by clicking the star in the upper right corner. You can view the websites you visited on particular dates there (Today, Last Week, 3 Weeks Ago, etc.). Click to view and delete particular websites, or use the right-click menu to delete all items from a particular time period. There are instructions online (Opens in a new window) for clearing the history if you’re running an older version of Internet Explorer.
SAFARI On macOS, Safari is king. It’s easy to delete your website visit history: just click History and Clear History. Select a timeframe for how far back you wish to wipe in the pop-up. This clears your cookies and data cache in addition to completely erasing your browser history.
While in Settings, look at the Sync area (on the left). Your history, along with your bookmarks, tabs, passwords, and preferences, may be synchronized across all of your Firefox-using computers and devices, including mobile phones, provided you have signed on with a Mozilla Firefox account. If anything, change what you truly want to synchronize.
BROWSERS FOR MOBILE
Go back to Settings > Safari and scroll down to Advanced > Website Data if you simply want to remove data for a few specific websites. You’ll see a list of every website you’ve visited and possibly a lot of them you didn’t because it also keeps track of the websites that provide third-party cookies after it loads (which can take a while). To delete or erase each, simply swipe left on it after selecting Edit and selecting the “minus” icon next to it.
CHROME The default browser on all Android smartphones is Google’s Chrome, which is downloadable for iOS (Opens in a new window) . In either case, click History from the three-dot menu to get a list of all the places you’ve been while using cognito (as opposed to Incognito). Your desktop history is also displayed here, as is history from all Chrome browsers connected to the same Google account.
There is a fully distinct Google app for searching on iOS called (), which has a built-in browser. The Google app’s browsing history cannot be deleted, but all open tabs can be closed by pressing the Tabs button in the lower right corner, deleting a floating window by swiping it to the right, and then choosing CLEAR ALL. Naturally, My Activity stores the search history for that app.
FIREFOX On both platforms, the Firefox browser is free and available for of destroying evidence (Opens in a new window) 0 or of destroying evidence (Opens in a new window) 1. In each, there are a few subtle differences in how to clear the browser history.
On iOS, select Settings > Data Management from the hamburger menu in the bottom right. You can completely disable the collecting of browser history (as well as data caching, cookies, and offline website data) on the next screen. To delete everything shown above, click the Clear Private Data link at the bottom. Be aware that there is a setting in Settings for Close Private Tabs, which closes all open tabs when you close the browser.