Thursday, 02 May 2019 09:25

Google adds auto-delete feature for location data on phones

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Google adds auto-delete feature for location data on phones Image by mmi9 from Pixabay

After more than a year when it has been stalked by privacy scandals, Google has announced that it will introduce an auto-delete feature for location history and activity data that it collects.

With US regulators demanding answers by 7 May over the repeated scandals, this appears to be Google's method of dealing with the issue.

In the past, even turning off location on smartphones has not stopped Google from collecting data, as an AP investigation in August last year found. The news agency said it had examined Google services on both Android devices and iPhones and found that turning off Location History had no impact at all.

The company's support page says: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

But the AP found that this was a lie and even with Location History turned off, some Google apps store time-stamped location data.

google new trick

In April, The New York Times reported that law enforcement authorities were using a Google database called Sensorvault to track people they considered to be offenders.

In announcing the auto-delete feature, David Monsees, product manager, Search, and Marlo McGriff, product manager, Maps, said: "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. In addition to these options, we’re announcing auto-delete controls that make it even easier to manage your data.

"Choose a time limit for how long you want your activity data to be saved — 3 or 18 months — and any data older than that will be automatically deleted from your account on an ongoing basis. These controls are coming first to Location History and Web & App Activity and will roll out in the coming weeks."

The feature will be available on both Android phones and iPhones, given that Google is the default search engine on Apple's Safari browser; Google pays Apple about US$9 billion a year to be the default search engine.

Whether the feature will work as claimed remains to be seen.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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