Google promises easier user data deletion

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Google promises easier user data deletion

Google has promised to make it easier to automatically delete records it gathers about your travel and web-browsing habits.

The search giant today announced the imminent arrival of “auto-delete controls for your Location History and activity data”.

The new features will enable users to pick a time at which Google will delete data about their recent activities. But details of the controls are scanty: Google's post its users will be able to says "Choose a time limit for how long you want your activity data to be saved—3 or 18 months."

Which isn't much of a choice because even though Google will let you automatically deleted data, it will still collect plenty of it and have lots of time in which to use it. Auto-delete is also less rigorous than manual deletion, which can erase more recent data. 

Google has at least hinted that these controls will be extended to more of its services in future.

This move needs to be understood in the context of increasing global disquiet about web giants' data-harvesting practices, which are increasingly drawing regulatory attention as the privacy and societal impacts of data use become apparent. Google's post announcing the new controls nods to those debates by concluding that "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."

And those tools look decent: a .GIF demo of the deletion tool shows that setting up an erasure policy needs just a tap or two, rather than the sometimes-labyrinthine controls other web services require to control personal data.

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