This just seems wrong. When I click a link in an email (gmail), or anywhere else on Android, it first loads a google page then opens the link. Like google is tracking every link I click. Seems inappropriate. Any way to disable it?
As this behavior occurs with every app on your system most likely the configuration of the "Default Application" for
https links has been changed.
You can configure all default Applications in the Android Settings. The exact path to the Default Applications settings depends on your Android version and device vendor (some vendors modify the Settings menu).
For example on Android 7 you have to open the Apps section and then the gear icon in the top right corner. Select the Browser App and you can choose which app to use as web browser.
On Android 8 there is in Settings the entry Apps & Notifications -> Extended -> Default-Apps where you can configure the default Browser app for example.