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How to Change Your Privacy Settings on YouTube

As the most popular online video platform with over 2 billion monthly logged-in users, YouTube poses significant privacy risks. According to a 2021 survey by Pew Research Center, 81% of U.S. adults say the potential risks they face because of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits.

With YouTube‘s vast trove of content comes great responsibility in managing what information is visible to others. Whether casually watching videos or running your own YouTube channel, it‘s critical to understand and configure key privacy settings.

Balancing Personalization & Privacy in YouTube Viewing

YouTube relies heavily on understanding user viewing habits and interests to serve personalized content and ads. However, the depth of data collection involved raises reasonable privacy concerns for many users.

Per Google‘s privacy policy, information they analyse to improve recommendations includes:

  • Videos watched/searched for
  • Location and device data
  • Demographics like age and gender
  • Web and application activity across Google services
  • Interaction with video annotations

While data personalization can be useful, we all need to determine our own privacy boundaries. Fortunately, YouTube offers controls to limit sharing of your viewing data if desired.

Access Desktop Settings Menu

To access main privacy controls in the YouTube desktop interface:

  1. Click profile icon > Settings
  2. Select "Privacy" tab in left sidebar

Manage Playlist & Subscription Visibility

Under "Manage what you share on YouTube" you can make choices including:

  • Keep all playlists private
  • Keep all subscriptions private

This gives you more control over what profiles and activity is visible on your public channel.

Evaluating Personalized Ads

The next option allows personalized ads based on your viewing history and other account data. Opting out uses less relevant ads but limits tracking.

For detailed personalization choices, the provided "My Ad Center" link redirects to an interface with options like:

Section Settings
Your Google Account Info Gender, Age Group, Language
Categories used for ads Relationships, Education, Shopping
Activity used to personalize Web History, YouTube History, Locations

This offers more granular control over what account data gets used by YouTube and Google for tailored advertising.

Limited Privacy Controls in Mobile YouTube App

Managing your privacy settings directly within the YouTube mobile app is more constrained than the desktop interface:

Access Mobile Settings

To enter settings:

  1. Tap Profile Picture > Settings
  2. Select "History & privacy > Ads Settings"

Disable Personalized Ads

You can toggle "Personalized Ads" off for a blanket opt-out across Google services.

However, for more specific privacy configurations, the mobile app defaults to opening My Ads Center in your mobile browser.

Unfortunately, the YouTube mobile application does not share parity with desktop tools for controlling data privacy. There are also unique concerns with mobile devices like:

  • Increased location/sensor tracking potential
  • App permission vulnerabilities
  • Lack of visibility into third-party data sharing

While mobile OS settings provide some protection, relying on platform-level YouTube controls is most effective.

Shielding Video Privacy as a YouTube Creator

Maintaining privacy over your own uploaded video content is another crucial consideration for channel operators.

YouTube creators have all the same visibility controls over personal viewing habits. But you also gain additional tools to govern access to videos themselves:

Understand Video Visibility States

In YouTube Studio, creators can assign 1 of 3 main privacy states to individual videos:

  • Public: Fully accessible, shown in searches/recommendations
  • Private: Requires direct link access, fully hidden
  • Unlisted: Accessible via link but not discoverable

This gives you flexibility over distribution ranging from entirely private personal archives to widely promoted public content.

Adjust in YouTube Studio

To change video privacy settings in the YouTube Studio desktop interface:

  1. Click into Video Manager > individual video
  2. Edit privacy status field
  3. Save visibility change

Settings can be updated at any future point in time without restrictions.

Compare to Other Platforms

Unlike other social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok, YouTube gives creators direct control over video privacy states.

For example, TikTok has only "Public" or "Private View" lacking an Unlisted middle ground. Instagram is rolling out a "Sensitive Content" tag but still lacks equivalent video access controls.

YouTube Studio offers superior tools for managing video privacy – but adoption remains up to each individual creator.

Additional YouTube Privacy Tips and Best Practices

Beyond platform-specific settings, general online privacy hygiene is also important on YouTube. Some key tips include:

Use Anonymous Browsing Strategies

When logged into any Google account, associated web history affects personalized ads and recommendations. For untracked viewing:

  • Access YouTube privately via Tor browser
  • Use Chrome/Firefox incognito/private modes
  • Frequently clear cookies, cache, and viewing history

Double Check Connected Services

YouTube is directly integrated with Google services like search, maps, and Gmail. Limited account activity sharing across properties enables convenience at the cost of privacy.

Be diligent in reviewing connected services and limiting integration where practical to compartmentalize data.

Frequently Asked Privacy Questions

Do changes made in My Ads Center apply beyond just YouTube?

Yes – any adjustments to personalized ad preferences or activity tracking impact Google sites universally once saved, including Search, Gmail, etc.

Can I undo privacy setting changes later on?

Fortunately, all settings in YouTube and My Ads Center can be freely changed again with no restrictions or delays. Reverting unexpected changes is painless.

If I make a video private, how can specific people view it?

You can share direct video links to provide access on an individual basis for private YouTube videos. Useful for personal videos or screeners.

What if I want to delete my viewing history entirely?

While not exposed directly in YouTube settings, your Google Account dashboard permits removing entire watch and search history with date ranges. This fully clears associated data from your account profile.

Closing Thoughts on Managing Your YouTube Privacy

Third-party tracking, personalized profiling, and data sharing occur constantly in the background as we browse YouTube. But users still have a reasonable expectation of control over their own information.

Per a 2022 survey of 5,000 consumers worldwide by Disconnect:

  • 63% believe internet companies don‘t deserve personal data access by default
  • 72% won‘t use apps/websites lacking clear privacy communication

Fortunately, YouTube provides above-average tools for customizing privacy settings compared to competitors. Taking a few minutes to configure account and video preferences based on your personal tolerance thresholds is strongly advised.

At minimum, everyone should review and consider adjusting:

  • Playlist, subscription, and web history visibility
  • Personalized advertising preferences
  • Individual video privacy states (for creators)

What YouTube privacy best practices do you enforce? Please share any other tips or questions below!