Google is joining tech giants Facebook and Microsoft by offering users greater privacy of their data which for Google will give its users the option to automatically delete their search and location history after three or eighteen months.
What’s the problem?
According to Google, feedback has shown that users want simpler ways to manage or delete their data and web users have been more concerned about matters of their data privacy after several high profile data breaches, most notably that of Facebook sharing 50 million profiles of its users data with analytics company, Cambridge Analytica, back in 2014.
Google already offers tools to help users manually delete all or part of their location history or web and app activity. The addition of the new tool, which is scheduled to happen “in the coming weeks” will enable users to set up auto-delete settings for their location history, web browsing and app activity.
With the new tool, users will be able to select how long they want their activity data to be saved for – three months or eighteen months – after which time Google says the data will automatically be deleted from the user’s account.
The new automatic deletion will be optional and the manual deletion tools will remain.
Facebook and Microsoft
At the beginning of May, Microsoft announced several new features intended to improve privacy controls for its Microsoft 365 users with a view to simplifying its data privacy policies.
Also, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a privacy-focused road map for the social network.
Google’s tracking questioned
Back in 2018, the ‘Deceived By Design’ report by the government-funded Norwegian Consumer Council accused tech giants Microsoft, Facebook and Google of being unethical by leading users into selecting settings that do not benefit their privacy.
In November 2018, Google’s tracking practices for user locations were questioned by a coalition of seven consumer organisations who were reported to have filed complaints with local data protection regulators. Although Google says that tracking is turned off by default and can be paused at any time by users, the complaints focused on research by a coalition member who claimed that people are forced to use the location system.
Furthermore, research by internet privacy company DuckDuckGo in December 2018 led to a claim that even in Incognito mode, users of Google Chrome can still be tracked and searches are still personalised accordingly.
What does this mean for your business?
The introduction of GDPR and high-profile data breach and privacy incidents such as the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal have made us all much more aware about (and more protective of) our personal data and how it is collected, stored and used by companies and other organisations. It is no surprise, therefore, that feedback to Google showed a need for greater control and privacy by users and the announcement of the new (optional) automatic deletion tool also provides a way for Google to get some good data privacy PR at a time when other tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft have also been seen to make data privacy improvements for their users.
Current details about how to manually delete your Google data can be found here https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/465?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en and the ‘My Activity’ centre for your Google account, where you will most likely be able to make your automatic settings, can be found here: https://myactivity.google.com/.