Streaming services seem to be multiplying more quickly than ever, and they all use a similar approach when it comes to tracking what you’re watching – both to make sure you can jump back in where you left off, and to power the various recommendation algorithms that will keep your eyeballs on the screen for longer than they probably should be.
However, you might not want your recently watched movies and shows so readily available. Maybe you don’t want your partner knowing you skipped ahead a couple of episodes on that show you binge-watched, or maybe you’d rather keep your fondness for animated movies to yourself.
Here’s how to erase your watch history.
Netflix has finally added the option to let you tweak the Continue Watching row, which is a quick and easy way of making your viewing history less visible – though for now you can only do this from Android or iOS. Tap the three dots underneath a title you’re sure you definitely don’t want to continue watching, and pick Remove from row.
On both the web and mobile, you can dig into your viewing history via the Account menu (it’s behind your avatar on the web and the More button on mobile). Tap your user profile, then View next to Viewing activity, and everything you’ve ever watched is laid bare – tap the icons on the right to hide a title, or Hide all to wipe everything.
According to Netflix, this will remove these titles from the Continue Watching row, and they won’t be used to inform your recommendations (unless you watch them again). For a more siloed way of managing your viewing history and recommendations, create your own profile – just remember to add a Profile Lock (from Account then Profile & Parental Controls) if you don’t want other people on the account accessing it.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon has finally gotten around to setting up support for multiple profiles on the same account, which means everyone you’re living with can have their own section of the app with its own viewing history and recommendations. Open the Profile Picker drop-down behind My Stuff on mobile, or click the Who’s Watching bar on the web (top right) to create new profiles and switch between them.
That’ll keep your viewing history and recommendations separate from other people, but it won’t wipe out the record of everything you’ve watched: To do that, click the cog icon on the web interface (top right), then choose Settings, Watch History, and View Watch History. The rather outdated-looking page that follows lets you exclude certain titles from the recommendation algorithm, or hide them completely (which we’re assuming also means they’ll no longer affect your recommendations).
There’s no option to wipe everything at once, so you’ll need to go through the list manually. There’s also no way to do this on a phone at the moment. While you’re going through your viewing history, you can improve the picks that Amazon offers you by giving everything you’ve previously watched a star rating (but only if you’re not hiding it).
YouTube (and YouTube TV)
You can access your YouTube watch history on the web by clicking Library on the left, then See all next to History. Click on one of the X icons to erase a single title from your history, or click Clear all watch history to do just that (the recommendations bar might thank you). You can follow the same route to your watch history in the YouTube mobile apps, though it’s only possible to remove watched videos one at a time from Android or iOS.
All of this ties in to the more general activity controls that you can find through your Google account (and your YouTube TV viewing history can be accessed from here as well). Go to the YouTube History page and you’ll be able to remove individual entries from your viewing history or delete the records a day at a time. To delete everything, go to Delete activity by and then Always.
You can tell YouTube not to keep a record of anything you watch, if you’re prepared to take the hit on your recommendations. From the YouTube History page, click Saving activity and turn the toggle switch off. To have YouTube auto-delete your history after a certain time, pick Auto-delete and then make your choice – you can tell YouTube to only keep records for three months or 18 months, as with the rest of your Google activity.
And the rest...
Unfortunately, these history-editing tweaks aren’t available on every streaming service out there. Disney Plus, for example, doesn’t let you view or edit your history at the moment, though it does recommend stuff for you to watch. If you need to keep your viewing history separate from someone else, your best bet is to create several profiles for everyone in your family or household. Just click your avatar then Edit profiles.
It’s a similar story with Apple TV+, which doesn’t offer you the ability to wipe your viewing history or even take a peek at it. You can, however, take some control over the Up Next row – a long press on a movie or show on the iPhone, for example, will bring up options to remove the title from the Up Next panel and your recently watched list. If Apple is thinking about new features for its streaming service, a viewing history editor would be welcome.