Google is now granting users more control over their location data by introducing an auto-delete feature. This privacy feature, if enabled, allows users to automatically delete their location history as well as web and app activity data at regular time intervals.
Although most of us use Google products and enjoy them, users have long been concerned about just how much data Google has on them and how there often isn’t a way to opt out or have that data deleted. Google has offered users the option of opting out of location tracking on their apps and web services for some time, but this solution isn’t ideal and doesn’t work for everyone. If you disable location tracking on Google Maps, for example, you are losing some of the apps major functionality; the ability to map the best possible route from your exact location in real-time.
If users didn’t want to disable location tracking altogether, they could partially or fully delete their location data manually whenever they want, but there was no option to have the data automatically deleted at regular intervals.
Privacy is becoming the new hot word in the tech industry as consumers continue to apply more pressure to companies to protect their privacy, even from the companies themselves. This move is Google’s way of saying “we hear you” to consumers.
Last year an investigation by Associated Press revealed that even when you don’t give some Google services permission to track you, it will anyway. This revelation was a surprise to users who believed that disabling location services would mean no more tracking, it even runs contrary to Google’s own statement on its support page:
“You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”
The AP investigation found that even if location history was turned off, some Google apps would still store “time-stamped location data” about users without them knowing.
The Associated Press report explains:
For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are,
And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude—accurate to the square foot—and save it to your Google account.
Additionally, last month it was reported that Google maintains a database called Sensorvault which houses the detailed location data of hundreds of millions of phones across the globe. It has been reported that Sensorvault is being used by law enforcement agencies across the world to aid in criminal investigations.
How to Enable Auto-Delete
- Visit the Google homepage and click on your profile picture
- Select the Google Account button, and then select the Data & Personalization tab
- Next, click on Web & App activity and select “Choose to delete automatically.”
- You have three options to choose from here, depending on your privacy preferences: “Keep until I delete manually,” “Keep for 18 months,” and “Keep for 3 months.”