Google Gets More Aggressive with Auto-Deleting User Data

One year ago, Google enabled a feature that allows its customers to auto-delete location history and web and app activity. This week, the firm announced the next step in this initiative: For new accounts, it will now make this auto-delete behavior the default.

“As we design our products, we focus on three important principles: keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control,” Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai writes in the announcement post. “Today, we are announcing privacy improvements to help do that, including changes to our data retention practices across our core products to keep less data by default.”

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That this change was announced by Pichai is, I think, important: The privacy-protecting Google that he describes is not the way that most people perceive this company, and he seems intent to change not just that impression but the reality.

“Starting today, the first time you turn on Location History—which is off by default—your auto-delete option will be set to 18 months by default,” he continues. “Web and App Activity auto-delete will also default to 18 months for new accounts. This means your activity data will be automatically and continuously deleted after 18 months, rather than kept until you choose to delete it. You can always turn these settings off or change your auto-delete option.”

Pichai says that Google won’t change how location history and web and application activity data retention works if you’ve already enabled those features. But remember that you can always manually change these settings if desired.

And Google is bringing this auto-delete behavior to more of its products and services, starting with YouTube, where auto-delete of viewing history will be set to 36 months by default for new accounts and current users can choose a 3 or 18 months auto-delete option. Default retention periods will not apply to other products like Gmail, Drive and Photos, which are designed to safely store your personal content, Pichai says.

But wait, there’s more.

Pichai also announced new privacy controls across Google’s products and services, including Google Account controls directly in Search, easier access to Incognito mode across many apps (not just the browser), and more proactive privacy controls via its Privacy Checkup service.

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Conversation 4 comments

  • Chris_Kez

    Premium Member
    25 June, 2020 - 10:20 am

    <p>I think this is a smart move by Google. <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">The search and location data are merely inputs, and b</span>y eighteen months they've extracted all the value from that data, whether that's tailoring search results, feed information, or ads based on current/recent location and search, or by adjusting algorithms and models for future behavior. Keeping those inputs on hand just means more storage overhead and more risk (however small) of data leakage. Plus this sounds good and might help reverse perception among some folks. There's really no downside that I can see with this move. </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      26 June, 2020 - 8:27 am

      The funny thing about Google right now is the disconnect between the reality of their routine privacy invasions and how much their executives talk up how concerned they are about our privacy.

      Actually, it’s not really that funny, I guess.

  • Chris Payne

    25 June, 2020 - 12:46 pm

    <p>At 18 months there's no value left in the data anyway. This isn't Google being altruistic – this is them savings themselves money by not having to store so much data.</p><p><br></p><p>I would want an option to delete the data after 7 days. Or how about immediately?</p>

  • note-book

    26 June, 2020 - 3:17 am

    <p>Default deletion set to 18 months is not good enough for privacy and does not affect Google's ability to extract information from personal data. Real privacy will require some compromise between data acquisition and information extraction.</p><p>A step in the right direction perhaps, but too little to impress or change perceptions.</p>

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