Google has introduced new search engine controls to automatically clean your data after a certain amount of time. By default, Google saves a permanent record of everything a user has searched for, all sites visited, the activity of any other app, site, or device that uses Google services, and a record of their physical movements obtained using Google Maps or an Android Device.
Users have always been able to disable or “pause” this crawl on a settings page, activity controls, and if they remember they can manually clear the saved information using the Delete Activity page. But both options have drawbacks: if tracking is disabled altogether, some Google products and services will no longer work, but manually deleting activities can be a difficult task, especially for users with more than one Google Account.
In May, the company launched the ability to automatically delete saved information after a fixed period of time. The feature initially covered only “web and app activity,” but now Google has announced its expansion to location history.
Again, users can delete location history manually by means of a very hidden setting in the Google Maps timeline, where an unmarked trash icon at the bottom right of the screen clears the history. But that marks the first time a user can easily track their movements in the short term while regularly cleaning their records.
The setting is not yet available on the web, but users of Google applications for iOS and Android will begin to see the setting when it is “launched,” the company says.
This should allow for the best of both worlds, allowing users to gain some of the benefits of location history, such as finding the name of that nifty coffee they entered last week, without risking creating a long-term history of each movement.
Other activity records still need manual attention. The company allows users to manually delete voice recordings from their Wizard and their search and watch history on YouTube, but they do not yet automate these deletions, though users can again turn off their storage of this information.
And all of these settings only affect Google’s consumer-driven records and personalization. Information the company collects for ads is a mandatory part of Google’s use of services, although a separate setting allows users to disable ad customization.
“You should always be able to manage your data in a way that works best for you and we’re committed to giving you the best controls to make that happen,” Google said in a statement announcing the new controls.
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