We had our first hint this was coming thanks to a beta version of Google Maps from a few months ago, inside of which code was found that revealed Google was considering an excellent new privacy feature. And today, after getting a black eye from reports last summer that revealed Google was tracking and saving your location even when you thought you’d disabled the feature, Google announced the addition of a new privacy control available to users: Auto-deletion of your location history.
The feature, which is coming first to location history as well as to your web and app activity, will roll out in the coming weeks, according to a company blog post penned by Google Search product manager David Monsees and Google Maps product manager Marlo McGriff.
Presumably, this new feature covers all of the location data Google collects about you. The company got in trouble last year when an AP investigation revealed that users who thought they’d turned off the location history setting were still seeing their data collected and stored — not realizing that Google catalogues your location details in a few different places.
“You can already use your Google Account to access simple on/off controls for Location History and Web & App Activity, and if you choose — to delete all or part of that data manually,” today’s announcement reads. “In addition to these options, we’re announcing auto-delete controls that make it even easier to manage your data.”
Here’s how it works. All you need to do is choose a time limit for how long you’ll allow Google to save your activity data, with the options being between three and 18 months. Any data older than the limit you set gets automatically deleted on an ongoing basis.
It’s certainly a positive step that Google is taking action here, although it’s this kind of thing that drew the ire of European regulators last year, so the company clearly needed a prodding to fix things. Today’s blog post also seems to hint that this feature is coming soon to other aspects of your Google experience, with the reference to the fact that it’s “coming first” to location history and your web and app activity.
“You should always be able to manage your data in a way that works best for you — and we’re committed to giving you the best controls to make that happen,” today’s announcement concludes.