Google has now given us an option to set search and location data to automatically disappear after a certain time. We should all use it.
Last year you may have been addicted to Beyoncé. But nowadays you’re more into Lizzo. You also once went through a phase of being obsessed with houseplants, but have lately gotten into collecting ballpoint pens.
People’s tastes and interests change. So why should our Google data histories be eternal?
For years, Google has kept a record of our internet searches by default. The company hoards that data so it can build detailed profiles on us, which helps it make personalized recommendations for content but also lets marketers better target us with ads. While there have been tools we can use to manually purge our Google search histories, few of us remember to do so.
So I’m recommending that we all try Google’s new privacy tools. In May, the company introduced an option that lets us automatically delete data related to our Google searches, requests made with its virtual assistant and our location history.
On Wednesday, Google followed up by expanding the auto-delete ability to YouTube. In the coming weeks, it will begin rolling out a new private mode for when you’re navigating to a destination with its Google Maps app, which could come in handy if you’re going somewhere you want to keep secret, like a therapist’s office.
“All of this work is in service of having a great user experience,” Eric Miraglia, Google’s data protection officer, said about the new privacy features. “Part of that experience is, how does the user feel about the control they have?”
How do we best use Google’s new privacy tools? The company gave me a demonstration of the newest controls this week, and I tested the tools that it released earlier this year. Here’s what to know about them.
How to auto-delete your search history
Most of Google’s new privacy controls are in a web tool called My Activity. (Here’s the URL: myactivity.google.com.)
Once you get into the tool and click on Activity Controls, you will see an option called Web & App Activity. Click Manage Activity and then the button under the calendar icon. Here, you can set your activity history on several Google products to automatically erase itself after three months or after 18 months. This data includes searches made on Google.com, voice requests made with Google Assistant, destinations that you looked up on Maps and searches in Google’s Play app store.
Which duration should you go for? It depends on how much you care about getting personalized recommendations.
Let’s say you have been doing lots of Google searches on celebrities and movies. Google News will recommend news articles for you to read on those topics based on those searches. So if you’re steadfast about following celebrity and movie news, setting searches to delete after 18 months is probably a good option. If you’re more fickle about your interests, three months may be better.
If you’re the type who doesn’t care to get any personalized recommendations on Google products, you can simply disable search history from being retained in your account. Next to the Web & App Activity option, toggle the switch to the off position.
How to auto-delete your YouTube history
New to Google’s privacy controls this week is the ability to auto-delete your YouTube history, which includes…