Google improves privacy controls for users, will auto-delete data by default for new users

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on June 25, 2020 Published on June 25, 2020

Google has announced a range of privacy improvements, including changes to its data retention practices.

“As we design our products, we focus on three important principles: keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control,” CEO Sundar Pichai said in an official blog post on Wednesday.

The tech giant is making the auto-delete feature that it had introduced last year default for first-time users. The auto-delete feature continuously deletes a user’s Location History, search, voice and YouTube activity data after three months or 18 months.

“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. Web & 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,” Pichai explained.

Auto-delete will be set to 36 months by default in YouTube. This is for users who create a new account or turn on their YouTube History for the first time.

Google will not change the settings for users who already have their Location History and Web & App Activity turned on but will continuously remind them to turn on auto delete through in-product notifications and emails.

This retention period will not apply to products where users store personal information for long-term use such as Gmail, Drive and Photos.

“As always, we don’t sell your information to anyone, and we don’t use information in apps, where you primarily store personal content — such as Gmail, Drive, Calendar and Photos — for advertising purposes, period,” Pichai wrote.

Google has been facing multiple privacy rows, especially in the US. It is also in the midsts of multiple lawsuits under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The US state of Arizona had recently sued the search giant in a consumer fraud lawsuit on Wednesday for its “deceptive” practice of using consumers’ location data.

Attorney-General Mark Brnovich, in a series of tweets, explained the circumstances under which the lawsuit was filed.

“Today we filed a consumer fraud lawsuit against Google for deceptive and unfair practices used to obtain users’ location data, which Google then exploits for its lucrative advertising business,” Brnovich had tweeted.

Most recently, France’s top court had upheld a $56-million fine against the company for its targeted ads practices, reports said.

Apart from this, the platform has made other changes to simplify controls for users. Users can now access key Google Account controls from Google Search, with terms like ‘Google Privacy Checkup’ and ‘Is my Google Account secure?’ The search results will have a box only visible to the user that will show them their privacy and security settings.

It is also making it easier for users to access Incognito mode on Search, Maps and YouTube. Incognito mode can be turned on by long-pressing on one’s profile pictures in the app. The feature is currently available on the Google App for iOS, and will soon be rolled out to Android and other apps.

“We’re also working to make it possible to stay in Incognito mode across Google apps, like Maps and YouTube,” Pichai said.

“Each year, more than 200 million people visit Privacy Checkup. We’re adding pro-active recommendations, including guided tips, to help you manage your privacy settings,” he added.

Published on June 25, 2020
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