Tech

Google Presents New Private User Data Retention Plan

By Bill Toulas / June 25, 2020

Google has announced a new plan to help users protect their privacy and gain more control over how the tech company manages their sensitive information. Building upon the auto-deletion features that were introduced last year, the next step will be to change the default settings on all Google Accounts to a data retention period of 18 months. The minimum possible remains three months, which the user can set manually, but at least Google has taken the step to place an upper limit by default. Previously, the data history for Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube Activity was set to “Don’t auto-delete” by default.

Just to clarify, Location History and Web & App activity will be set to 18 months, while YouTube history will get a default setting to 36 months. Apparently, YouTube searches and watching history were deemed less sensitive, and so keeping these around for longer may help the users find content easier. For other Google products like Gmail, Drive, and Photos, no auto-deletion will apply. These services are meant to keep the stored data forever unless the user manually deletes them.

A change in the default settings may sound like a small step to take, and the truth is that these settings were already available to users for many months now. However, default settings have a special power and this is where the importance of Google’s announcement lies. A large percentage of users don’t bother fiddling with their account settings, often never get to know about their existence, or just don’t take their own privacy seriously. Seeing Google taking care of all that for billions of users is crucially important. Of course, many like to assume that Google is only deleting this data on the front-end that users can see, and still keeps everything on its servers. This is a matter of trust to the company and the national auditing authorities, so we won’t go there.

All Google Account holders should have received an email already urging them to review their account’s “Data & Personalisation” settings and take a privacy check-up. If you missed the email or haven’t received it yet, go ahead and set the relevant options from here. Google has simplified the settings and is even offering a quick way to download your data and see what they have stored regarding your online activity all these years. Previously, these settings were hidden or spread across various locations, so whatever negative things we can say about Google, we must admit their massive progress on that part.



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