- Search engine’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, announced the major changes
- YouTube will also delete users’ history data after 36 months, the company said
- Previously, users have been required to activate their own data deletion controls
Google is set to automatically delete user data including their location and search history after 18 months, in a landmark update to its privacy settings.
YouTube was also included in the shakeup, and will now start removing users’ history data after 36 months. Google said the longer time period was needed to improve the platform’s video recommendations.
The technology giant’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, announced the change, saying the company believes it should only ‘keep your information for as long as it’s useful and helpful to you’.
Previously, users have been required to activate their own data deletion controls and set time limits.
Google has said it will start deleting all user data automatically after 18 months
YouTube, which is owned by Google, will start deleting user data after 36 months. The company said it needed to keep the information for longer to improve video recommendations
Announcing the change, Mr Pichai said: ‘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.
‘(The change means) your activity data will be automatically and continuously deleted after 18 months, rather than kept until you choose to delete it.
‘Last year we introduced auto-delete controls, which give you the choice to have Google automatically and continuously delete your Location History, search, voice and YouTube activity data after three or 18 months.’
He said that YouTube would store users’ data for longer because users would benefit from the video recommendations made by the platform’s algorithms based on search history.
Google added that users can still choose to manually shorten the retention periods, should they wish to.
Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, announced the changes to Google’s platform. He is pictured in Brussels, Belgium, in January this year
‘If you’ve already had location history and web and app activity turned on, we won’t be changing your settings,’ he said.
‘But we will actively remind you about the auto-delete controls through in-product notifications and emails, so you can choose the auto-delete setting that works for you.’
Among other changes announced, Google said it would add access to Google account settings directly from it search engine, so user could search for ‘is my Google account secure?’ and be guided to their privacy and security settings.
The company said it was also making it easier to access its Incognito mode on mobile – which allows users to carry out searches and visit websites without that activity being logged.
Already available on iOS and coming soon to Android, Google said users will be able to access Incognito by pressing and holding on their Google profile image in the top corner of the Search screen.
How to delete your search history on Google
Google stock image
These instructions detail how users can delete their Google search history using a desktop computer.
1. Turn on your computer and open the Chrome browser.
2. At the top right, click More. This is shown by the three dots in a vertical line.
3. Click on history and click on history again.
4. Go to the top left of the page and press ‘clear browsing data’. This will remove the selected data from Google.