Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced that it will start deleting location history and web activity of users after 18 months. Initially, users personally turned on this feature to stop Google from storing their data indefinitely. Under the new arrangement, Google will still hold users’ information and recommend the best course of action to users based on their previous location or browsing history.
Tracking of Google’s location history is still off by default but can be tuned on by those who want to use products like Google Maps. The auto-delete feature applies to location history, search history, and voice commands collected through Google Assistant and devices like Google Home. This data is collected and logged into My Activity page, where users can access and see and manually delete specific items.
Enhancing User Privacy
While announcing the new changes, Google CEO, Sundar Pichai noted that the tech giant is fully committed to protecting its users’ privacy, security, and choice. “As we design our products, we focus on three important principles: keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control,” Pichai wrote. “Today, we are announcing privacy improvements to help do that.”
Google will give users a chance to choose how long they want the company to keep their information to protect it from being deleted automatically. In addition to location, Google will also automatically delete web and app activity every 18 months. This will, however, apply to new accounts.
“We continue to challenge ourselves to do more with less, and today we’re changing our data retention practices to make auto-delete the default for our core activity settings,” said Pichai.
Then new settings will only apply to new users. Old Google accounts won’t be affected by the new changes. However, the company will be promoting this option on YouTube and search page in an effort to attract users to test their auto-delete settings.
Balance between user privacy and business interests
The new settings result from a delicate balance between user privacy interest and the company’s business interest. In its ads business, Google regards users’ most recent data as the most valuable as it can be used to track people who recently engaged with a product.