Google will automatically delete user activity data after 18 months

Auto-delete update comes as Google pledges “to keep less data by default”

Google has announced that it has made its auto-delete option a default setting, meaning users’ data will be deleted automatically and continuously after 18 months.

The company’s decision to alter its data retention practices is guided by its aim “to keep less data by default” and covers information collected from users’ Web & App Activity and  Location History.

The auto-delete update does not apply to Google’s personal content storages such as Gmail, Drive, Photos, or Calendar.

In a blog post detailing the update, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai added that the tech giant will also extend auto-delete to YouTube, where it “will be set to 36 months by default if you create a new account or turn on your YouTube History for the first time”.

“We believe that products should keep your information for only as long as it's useful and helpful to you—whether that’s being able to find your favorite destinations in Maps or getting recommendations for what to watch on YouTube,” said Pichai.

Google first introduced auto-delete controls in May 2019, allowing users to select a time limit of three or 18 months for how long their activity data would be saved. Maps and Search products managers, Marlo McGriff and David Monsees explained at the time that users’ feedback prompted them to “provide simpler ways (...) to manage or delete” data.

Alongside the auto-delete update, Google also announced other changes to its privacy tools.

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From today, it will allow users to access key Google Account controls directly from its Search page, as well as find more proactive privacy controls in its Privacy Checkup recommendations and access Incognito mode by long-pressing on the user’s profile picture in Search, Maps, and YouTube.

The update comes days after Google employees signed a letter demanding that Alphabet ceases all technology sales to US police departments, following weeks of protests against racially-motivated police brutality. 

In this latest blog post announcement, Pichai maintained Google’s dedication to privacy, stating that it was “the first major company to decide not to make general-purpose facial recognition commercially available". 

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