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Google is now auto-deleting some activity, but it is not enough

Google CEO Sundar Pichai published an announcement on the company's official Safety and Security blog yesterday about privacy changes for some Google products.

Google introduced options to auto-delete some activity that the company records last year. Google users may set the auto-deletion to a period of three months or eighteen months, or could keep the manual default option back then. The default was set to manual which meant that Google customers had to know about these privacy options to make the change.

google privacy delete activity

Starting this month, Google switched the default from "manual" to auto-delete for supported activities. What this means is that activity will be deleted automatically for all Google customers based on the new setting.

Customers have options to switch the default, e.g. to manual, to keep the activity indefinitely, or to change the auto-deletion period.

Here is the overview of the activity and the new defaults:

  • Location History -- auto-delete set to 18 months, needs to be turned on by the user.
  • Web & App Activity -- auto-delete set to 18 months for new Google accounts. Existing customers will be informed by email and messages about the new option.
  • Youtube (upcoming) -- auto-delete set to 36 months for new accounts and accounts that turn on the history for the first time.

Some of the activities that Google may record need to be enabled before the recording starts; this is the case for the Location History for example.

Google customers who have configured auto-delete settings already will keep these options. Customers may open the Activity Settings to control auto-delete functionality as well as turn the recording of activity on or off.

Closing Words

Customers need to turn on the recording of activity in some cases before it starts. It is a deliberate decision but some functionality only becomes available if the recording is enabled.

The new default settings to auto-delete old recordings is a step in the right direction but at least some Google customers might find that the default period is too long.

Take YouTube as an example. Google plans to auto-delete activity after 36 months. The period ensures, according to Google, that the site can "make relevant entertainment recommendations".  Three years is a long time when it comes to entertainment and what has been watched two or more years ago may not be of interest anymore while content that is watched regularly may be.

A shorter period that recommendations are based on may provide better recommendations, but recommendations are not really YouTube's strong suit anyway.

The only option that YouTube users have in regards to recommendations is to set the auto-delete period to either 3 months or 18 months manually. The recording can be paused as well and it is possible to access the service without signing in to a Google account.

The company could provide customers with better options, e.g. by allowing them to set a custom range for activity.

Now You: What is your take on the new auto-delete defaults? Do you use Google services while you are signed-in?


This article was first seen on ComTek's "TekBits" Technology News