Google will soon let users automatically erase any location, search, and app data it’s stored about them
- New settings feature lets users set time limits for data Google can store on them
- Currently rolling out for location data, web and app activity but could expand
- Users can choose between three and 18 months for how long Google keeps data
- After that time period expires, Google will automatically delete older activity
Google is giving users back some control over their data.
The internet giant is introducing a new feature in account settings that will allow users to delete location, web and app activity data automatically.
The tools will become available in the coming weeks, according to Google.
Google is giving users back some control over their data. The firm is introducing a new feature that will allow users to delete location, web and app activity data automatically
Now, instead of requiring users to delete the data manually, Google is adding auto-delete controls.
‘We work to keep your data private and secure, and we’ve heard your feedback that we need to provide simpler ways for you to manage or delete it,’ the firm explained in a blog post.
‘…We’re announcing auto-delete controls that make it even easier to manage your data.’
Now, users can select a time limit for how long Google can hold onto their data.
Users select the option in settings that says ‘Choose to delete automatically.’
From there, they can choose between letting Google preserve their data for three months or 18 months.
For example, if they select three months, anything older than that time period will be deleted automatically moving forward.
The same principle would apply if users select the 18 month time limit.
Users will still get recommendations from Google, like restaurants they might enjoy in their neighborhood, or search suggestions based on their history.
However, Google won’t be able to hold onto their browsing data in its servers as long as before.
With it rolling out for location and web and app activity, it means Google will have more restricted access to things like your Chrome browsing history or search history on Google Maps, for instance.
‘You should always be able to manage your data in a way that works best for you – and we’re committed to giving you the best controls to make that happen,’ the firm added.
The company said the feature is rolling out for location history and web and app activity to start, which suggests it could launch for more kinds of data in the future.
The move follows an explosive report last year from the Associated Press, which found that several Google apps and websites store user location even if users turned off Location History.
Following an investigation, the AP found that even with Location History turned off, Google stores user location when, for instance, the Google Maps app is opened, or when users conduct Google searches that aren’t related to location.
Researchers found Google logs a record of your current location each time you open its turn-by-turn navigation app, Google Maps.
The daily weather updates on Android phones also provided another way to track movement.
HOW DOES GOOGLE TRACK ITS USERS’ LOCATIONS OUTSIDE OF ‘LOCATION HISTORY’?
A new investigation led by the Associated Press found that some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking – even when you’ve paused Location History.
The investigation found, for example:
- Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you open its Maps app
- Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint where you are each time the forecast is refreshed
- Simple searchers, such as ‘chocolate chip cookies,’ or ‘kids science kits,’ pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude – accurate to the square foot – and save it to your Google account
This information is all logged as part of the ‘Web and App Activity feature, which does not specifically reference location information in its description.
This is enabled by default, and stores a variety of information from Google apps and websites to your Google account.
When paused, it will prevent activity on any device from being saved to your account.
Leaving ‘Web & App Activity’ on and turning ‘Location History’ off only prevents Google from adding your movements to the ‘timeline,’ its visualization of your daily travels.
It does not stop Google’s collection of other location markers.