The firm will now delete its saved records of a new user’s activity after 18 months
Google will no longer save a complete record of every search made by new users, the company says, as it launches a push to promote its privacy credentials against concerted competition from arch-rival Apple.
The company will now automatically delete its saved records of a new user’s activity on the web and in its apps after 18 months, chief executive Sundar Pichai announced on Wednesday. Previously, such information had been kept indefinitely by default, which the company argued was necessary to personalise its services for individual users.
Those people who have opted-in to storing their location history, a record of everywhere they have been with their phone, will also default to automatically deleting it after 18 months.
“As we design our products, we focus on three important principles,” Pichai said. “Keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control.” The default auto-deletion settings do not apply to services, such as Gmail and Google Photos, which are designed to store personal content.
Auto-deletion, which was first introduced as an option last year, allows privacy-sensitive users to continue to use the company’s “smart” services, without building a years-long record of their activity on the web. But for the 1.5 billion people around the world who already have a Google account, the setting must be manually changed. Some of those users will receive, or will already have received, an email from Google reminding them to complete the company’s “privacy check-up”, which explicitly asks them if they want to store the data.
Google has faced growing competitive pressure from Apple over user privacy. The iPhone manufacturer has deliberately chosen a course that relies as little as possible on gathering user data, gambling that consumers will put up with less impressive experiences if they can be convinced their personal data is kept secure. On Monday, Apple announced another such feature: a built-in Translate app for iPhones, which can work fully offline.
Google’s auto-deletion features, by contrast, allow the company to continue to gather user data, and personalise products with it, while reassuring the privacy-conscious that their information will not be stored indefinitely.
“This is something we’ve been doing for a long time,” said David Monsees, a product manager at the company. “We know that information makes our products helpful. Our intention is to only keep the information for as long as it’s helpful and useful to you.”