Google tweaks privacy policy to give users more control

New feature will auto-delete 18-month-old data

Google announced Wednesday new privacy improvements that will make it easier for users to control how much data is collected about them and for how long it is stored.

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Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and its parent company, Alphabet, wrote in a blog post that the tech giant will now make it easier for users to auto-delete their data after 18 months.

“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 & App Activity auto-delete will also default to 18 months for new accounts,” Pichai wrote. “This means your activity data will be automatically and continuously deleted after 18 months, rather than kept until you choose to delete it."

The settings can be turned off or the auto-delete option can be changed, he said.

Google also says it will make it easier to enter Incognito mode and stay in it across various apps.

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A key plank of Google’s business model is the sale of targeted ads based on what you search, view, and browse on its applications like YouTube and Chrome.

“We use data to make our services more useful and to show relevant advertising, which helps make our services free for everyone,” according to Google.

Google’s success rests on the idea that this creates a personalized experience across its many services, but concerns have also been raised that the company sometimes infringes on the privacy of its users.

The Irish Data Protection Commission announced an investigation earlier this year into Google’s use of location data.

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“The Inquiry will set out to establish whether Google has a valid legal basis for processing the location data of its users and whether it meets its obligations as a data controller with regard to transparency,” the DPC has said.

A $5 billion class-action lawsuit was filed earlier this month against Google in California that accuses the company of illegally collecting data on what people view online.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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This move by Google comes two days after Apple announced that it was giving users more control over their privacy at its Worldwide Developers Conference. The company will now require apps to make it clear to users how and when it is collecting your data, akin to a nutrition label for food that tells you exactly what you're eating.

“Today, we require that apps have a privacy policy,” Erik Neuenschwander, Apple's director of user privacy, said Monday. “Wouldn't it be great to even more quickly and easily see a summary of an app's privacy practices before you download it?"

The privacy director hopes to have privacy labels for apps that are easy to read like food nutrition labels.

"For food, you have nutrition labels; you can see if it's packed with protein or loaded with sugar, or maybe both, all before you buy it, he said. "So we thought it would be great to have something similar for apps. We're going to require each developer to self-report their practices.”

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