In a major milestone for internet privacy, search giant Google is rolling out a new feature that will allow users auto-delete their location history and web and app activity permanently from Google’s records.
While controls to stop data gathering, which Google uses to personalise recommendations and ads, already exits on Google account settings page, the Alphabet-owned company has gone a step ahead to assure users' data is not misused, or harvested without consent.
More often than not, people, by blindly agreeing to terms and conditions for internet services, allow their data and online activity to be tracked. It is no secret that Google, which owns the Chrome browser, Google Maps, YouTube, and Android mobile platform, maintains intricate user profiles that are constantly fed with users’ searches, places they have been to, ads they have clicked on, apps installed, and so on.
Google also fetches data from sites unrelated to Google as its ad engine is, more likely than not, embedded in the publisher website. Combining data from all these apps and services has been Google’s biggest advantage, and also a reason behind a global movement and public discourse against unethical data harvesting by big tech firms that has taken shape over the past two years.
“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 the search firm said in a blogpost on Wednesday.
Google will introduce a bunch of settings in the coming weeks, allowing users to delete all data older than either 3 months of 18 months.
Once the feature is turned on, data that is older than 3 months or 18 months, depending on the choice of the user, will get deleted automatically.
Google has conveyed that users opting for this may see their recommendations — ads, search suggestions, or places to visit or news on Google Discover page on Android phones — may become less relevant and personalised.
However, it is important to note, Google is allowing these controls only for location history, certain web activity like sites visited on Chrome, and apps download and usage log. It still gathers data from YouTube searches, voice searches, and a host of data points from a users usage of Android mobile operating system. Data gathering from some of these sources can be manually turned off.