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Google keeps a track of everything that you do online, including the websites you visit, the ads you see, the videos you watch, and the things you search. Soon, this is (partially) going to change. Google, on Wednesday, launched a new feature allowing users to delete all or part of the location history and web and app activity data, manually. This has been a long requested feature by all internet users, and Google says it “ has heard user feedback that they need to provide simpler ways for users to manage or delete their data.”

In the Q1 earnings shared by Google’s parent company Alphabet, they said that EU’s USD 1.49 billion fine on Google is one of the reasons their profit sagged in the first three months of this year.  This was Google’s third antitrust fine by EU since 2017. In the Monday report, Alphabet said that profit in the first quarter fell 29 percent to USD 6.7 billion on revenue that climbed 17 percent to USD 36.3 billion.

“Without identifying you personally to advertisers or other third parties, we might use data that includes your searches and location, websites and apps you’ve used, videos and ads you’ve seen, and basic information you’ve given us, such as your age range and gender,” the company explains on its Safety Center Web page.

Google already allows you to turn off their location history and Web and app activity. You can also manually delete data that’s generated from searches and other Google services. This new feature, however, lets you remove such information automatically. It has a time limit for how long you want your activity data to be saved:

  • Keep until I delete manually
  • Keep for 18 months, then delete automatically
  • Keep for 3 months, then delete automatically

Based on the option chosen, any data older than that will be automatically deleted from your account on an ongoing basis. Surprisingly, Google still does not have an option that says ‘don’t track me‘ or ‘automatically delete after I close website‘, which would ensure 100 percent data privacy and security for users.

location history and web and app activity data

Source: Google Blog

Enabling privacy has not been one of Google’s strongholds in recent times.

Last year, Google was caught in a scandal which allowed Google to track a person’s location history in incognito mode, even when they had turned it off.

In November last year, Google came under scrutiny by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC). They published a report stating that Google is using various methods to encourage users to enable the settings ‘location history’ and ‘web and app activity’ which are integrated into all Google user accounts. They allege that Google is using these features to facilitate targeted advertising.

“These practices are not compliant with GDPR, as Google lacks a valid legal ground for processing the data in question. In particular, the report shows that users’ consent provided under these circumstances is not freely given,” BEUC, speaking on behalf of the countries’ consumer groups, said.

Google was also found helping the police use Google’s location database to catch potential crime suspects, and sometimes capturing innocent people in the process, per a recent New York Times investigation.

The new feature will be rolled out in the coming weeks for location history and for web and app activity data. It is likely to be incorporated in data history as well, but it has not been officially confirmed. To enable this privacy feature, visit your Google account activity controls.

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European Consumer groups accuse Google of tracking its users’ location, calls it a breach of GDPR.

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Content Marketing Editor at Packt Hub. I blog about new and upcoming tech trends ranging from Data science, Web development, Programming, Cloud & Networking, IoT, Security and Game development.