Better late than never—you now have a new option in your Google Account settings which lets you tell the servers to delete a history of your visited locations, web history and app activity.
Before, you could turn your Location History or Web & App Activity on or off at will, as well as delete all or part of that data manually, but the automatic option was nowhere to be seen.
The new option in your Google Account settings, launching on a staggered basis, allows you to instruct the company’s systems to automatically clear your Location History data and/or Web & App Activity history data on an ongoing basis after three or eighteen months.
“These controls are coming first to Location History and Web & App Activity and will roll out in the coming weeks,” the company added.
After the chosen timeframe has passed, that data is “permanently removed from your account,” reads the announcement. I could be paranoid, but the wording implies that your location and other data is simply no longer accessible, as opposed to being wiped clean for good.
I’ve always felt that Google was being disingenuous when it previously defended the lack of these controls by claiming that it is essential for some of its services to know where you’ve been, what you’re doing in your favorite apps and which websites you visit frequently.
Truth be told, some of that data can and does, in fact, make certain services more useful, like recommending a restaurant or helping you pick up where you left off on a previous search.
But contrast, if you will, Google’s approach to services—that notoriously requires the search giant to gather as much data about you as possible and suck it into the cloud for analysis—with Apple’s use of a technique known as Differential Privacy, which basically lets your iPhone gain insights into your habits needed for AI and Siri by taking advantage of on-device intelligence without the vast privacy intrusions that have, sadly, become the norm today.