Google will automatically delete location history by default

Google announced on Wednesday that it will begin automatically deleting user location history and web activity after 18 months.

Previously, users had to activate this setting if they did not want Google to store their data for an indefinite period of time.

The move allows Google to retain information and recommend things you might like based on your previous location or browsing history, but you won’t have years and years of private data.

This is what is changing.

Google location tracking

The Google Maps timeline shows all the places you were on a given day.

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Google location history tracking is still disabled by default, but turning it on can be helpful if you want products like Google Maps to offer personalized recommendations, such as restaurants you might like, based on where you’ve been in the past. Or, Google can tell by your location history that you normally go out to work at 8 am, and may recommend that you get out a little earlier to avoid traffic on a particular day.

However, when location tracking is turned on, Google tracks your location in precise detail, something you can see if you see your Google Maps timeline.

Now, if you turn on location history, Google will automatically delete that data after 18 months. You can also set Google location history to be automatically deleted every three months or every 36 months.

Tracking web activity and Google applications

Choose how long you want Google to keep your information before it is automatically deleted.


Web and app activity will also be automatically removed every 18 months, but only for new accounts. New YouTube accounts will also have their history removed after three years.

Tracking web and app activity, and YouTube history, is logged by default for an indefinite period of time for existing users. But you can turn on automatic removal of web and app activity, which launched last year, through Google’s Activity Controls page.

“We continue to challenge ourselves to do more with less, and today we are changing our data retention practices to make automatic deletion the default setting for our core business,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet and Google, in a release.

Other privacy changes

Google is facilitating access to incognito mode in selected applications. The mode allows you to browse or use applications privately, and Google will not save your browsing history, cookies or site data. In Google Maps, Google will not keep a history of where you have been when you have incognito mode activated.

A feature that will launch on iPhone on Wednesday, and later for Android and other apps, will allow users to tap and hold their profile picture in Google Search, Maps, and YouTube to activate incognito mode. Google said it will soon make it possible to stay incognito across your entire app family, so you won’t have to turn it on for each individual app.

Google said it will also offer more proactive privacy controls and help guide users to manage their privacy settings. In addition, users will be able to access the key controls of the Google account through search.

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