Mountain View announced the move in a blog post written by CEO of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, as the tech giant looks to promote and reform its privacy controls in the face in increasing competition from Apple in this department. Privacy is becoming a major feature of any tech product or service, and everyone in the game is now selling privacy controls and policies as such.
Pichai wrote: “As we design our products, we focus on three important principles: keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control. Today, we are announcing privacy improvements to help do that, including changes to our data retention practices across our core products to keep less data by default.”
Google’s auto-delete controls were introduced last year, allowing users to opt into having their search, location, and YouTube history automatically deleted after three or 18 months. The default option, however, was to not auto-delete anything. That’s is now changing, as Google confirmed the default option will now be to delete activity data after 18 months. For YouTube History, the default is set at 36 months.
Google explained how it works in the blog post:
Starting today, 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, rather than kept until you choose to delete it. You can always turn these settings off or change your auto-delete option.
If you’ve already had Location History and Web & App Activity turned on, Google will not be changing your settings. It will, however, send you a reminder about the auto-delete controls through in-product notifications and emails. Google is already sending Gmail users an email inviting them to complete what it is calling a your “Privacy Checkup”.
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Your search history will now automatically be deleted after 18 months by default. / © Google
More than 1.5 billion people around the world have a Google account, so the switch in default settings will have a huge impact on the amount of personal data Google stores indefinitely. Before, users had to manually change the auto-delete settings by going into their account management page.
Current users can still choose the three-month auto-delete option, of course. Default retention periods do not apply to other Google products like Gmail, Drive, and Photos, which are designed to store your personal content. You can, of course, still choose to have your search history and other activity data stored by Google indefinitely.
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