Google announced Wednesday it will start to automatically delete users’ location history and web activity after 18 months.
Previously, users had to turn this setting on if they didn’t want Google to store their data for an indefinite amount of time.
The move allows Google to still hold on to information and recommend things you might like based on your previous location or browsing history, but it won’t have years and years worth of private data.
Here’s what’s changing.
Google location tracking
Google Maps Timeline shows everywhere you were on a certain day.
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Google location history tracking is still off by default, but turning it on can be useful if you want products like Google Maps to offer personalized recommendations, like restaurants you might like, based on where you’ve been in the past. Or, Google might know from your location history that you typically leave for work at 8 a.m., and can recommend that you leave a bit earlier to avoid traffic on a particular day.
When location tracking is on, however, Google follows your location with precise detail — something you can see if you view your Google Maps Timeline.
Now, if you turn location history on, Google will auto-delete that data after 18 months. You can also set Google location history to automatically delete every three months or every 36 months.
Google web and app activity tracking
Choose how long you want Google to keep your information before it’s automatically deleted.
Web and app activity will also be deleted automatically every 18 months, but only for new accounts. New YouTube accounts also will have their history deleted after three years.
Web and app activity tracking, and YouTube history, is logged by default for an indefinite period of time for existing users. But, you can turn turn on web and app activity auto-delete, which rolled out last year, through the Google Activity Controls page.
“We continue to challenge ourselves to do more with less, and today we’re changing our data retention practices to make auto-delete the default for our core activity settings,” Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said in a release.
Other privacy changes
Google is making it easier to access incognito mode on select apps. The mode lets you browse or use apps privately, and Google won’t save your browsing history, cookies, or site data. In Google Maps, Google won’t keep a history of where you’ve been when you have incognito mode on.
A feature rolling out to iPhone on Wednesday, and later for Android and other apps, will let users long press on their profile picture in Google Search, Maps and YouTube to turn on incognito mode. Google said it will soon make it possible to stay in incognito mode across its family of apps, so you won’t have to turn it on in each individual app.
Google said it will also offer more proactive privacy controls and help guide users through managing their privacy settings. Additionally, users will be able to access key Google Account controls through search.