Google Will Auto-Delete User Data After 18 Months

One year ago, Google enabled a feature that allows its customers to auto-delete location history and web and app activity. This week, the firm announced the next step in this initiative: For new accounts, it will now make this auto-delete behavior the default.

“As we design our products, we focus on three important principles: keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control,” Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai writes in the announcement post.

“Today, we are announcing privacy improvements to help do that, including changes to our data retention practices across our core products to keep less data by default.”

Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai writes in the announcement post.

That this change was announced by Pichai is, I think, important: The privacy-protecting Google that he describes is not the way that most people perceive this company, and he seems intent to change not just that impression but the reality.

“Starting today, the first time you turn on Location History—which is off by default—your auto-delete option will be set to 18 months by default,” “Web and App Activity auto-delete will also default to 18 months for new accounts.

This means your activity data will be automatically and continuously deleted after 18 months, rather than kept until you choose to delete it. You can always turn these settings off or change your auto-delete option.”

Pichai says that Google won’t change how location history and web and application activity data retention works if you’ve already enabled those features. But remember that you can always manually change these settings if desired.

And Google is bringing this auto-delete behaviour to more of its products and services, starting with YouTube, where auto-delete of viewing history will be set to 36 months by default for new accounts and current users can choose a 3 or 18 months auto-delete option. Default retention periods will not apply to other products like Gmail, Drive and Photos, which are designed to safely store your personal content, Pichai says.

But wait, there’s more.

Pichai also announced new privacy controls across Google’s products and services, including Google Account, controls directly in Search, easier access to Incognito mode across many apps (not just the browser), and more proactive privacy controls via its Privacy Checkup service.