Google updates privacy controls for new users

Google logo
The logo of Google is seen in Davos, Switzerland.

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Wednesday it will automatically delete some location history after 18 months for new users and make it easier for everyone to access its search, Maps and YouTube apps without being tracked.

The updates to Google’s privacy controls arrive as the world’s largest search engine faces heightened scrutiny on its data collection practices. New privacy laws in California and Europe have prompted internet companies to adjust practices over the last two years. Several lawsuits by consumers and U.S. state attorneys general in the last few months have accused Google of deception in data gathering.

Under Google’s updated settings, YouTube’s viewing history of new users will disappear after 36 months and location tracking and web browsing history will get dropped after 18 months. Users have the option of choosing shorter or longer timeframes.

However, Google may still be able to access and store location details in other ways.

Users can more easily search in what Google calls “incognito mode,” by just holding down their profile picture at the top of the search, Maps or YouTube apps. Previously, an additional click in the apps’ menu was required.

Google does not keep a log of users’ activity when they are in incognito.

The company derives most of its revenue from ads, which are typically based on data about what users are watching and reading and where they are located. Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai last year acknowledged that the company gathers more data than necessary for ads and committed to minimize its collection.

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