Google will soon launch a new feature that will allow you to automatically delete your account’s location history and web activity data, and we say not a moment too soon.
For years, Google has been telling us that we’ve got control of our privacy. And while it is true that the company already has tools available to allow users to turn location or app activity data on or off and to manually delete data, there has never been a way to auto-delete old data. Until now. Google’s new auto-delete function will soon be available on your account activity page. The Mountain View, California-based company said it will be introducing the new feature “in the coming weeks.”
“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,” Google said in a blog post announcing the change. “Choose a time limit for how long you want your activity data to be saved — 3 or 18 months — and any data older than that will be automatically deleted from your account on an ongoing basis.”
TechCrunch reports the new feature will include your Chrome browsing history, your notification history from Google’s Discover feature on Android, locations you searched for in Google Maps, apps you used and more. YouTube search and watch history, voice and audio activity and plenty of other data in your Google account won’t be covered by the auto-delete feature — for now. Industry insiders expect the company to expand it in the coming months.
Privacy experts warn that Google’s new feature isn’t going to remedy all of the company’s data collection and privacy transgressions. It wasn’t that long ago that the company shut down its Google+ social network after the embarrassing revelation that more than half a million users’ data had been inadvertently exposed over the course of three years. And last year, an analysis of Google’s data collection practices concluded that short of chucking your device into the nearest river, avoiding the Internet altogether and going back to the days of paper maps, there really isn’t all that much you can do to keep Google from collecting data about you.
According to the report — which it must be said was commissioned by a lobbyist group and written by a witness for Oracle in that company’s copyright litigation with Google — Google is collecting far more of your data than even Facebook. Every move you make online is is collected and collated by Google, the report stated.
“At the end of the day, Google identified user interests with remarkable accuracy,” it said.
Google is able to collect your data even when you’re not using your phone. According to the study, a dormant Android phone with Chrome running in the background sent location data to Google servers 340 times over the course of just one day. The study also claims that 11.6 MB of data passed between an Android device and Google’s servers over the course of a typical day of Internet use.
“It’s nearly impossible to do anything digitally without Google collecting data on you,” said Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, which published the study.