Google introduces auto-delete

Privacy is proving to be one of the long-standing themes of 2019 and Google latest move perhaps should be considered an industry standard.

Starting with its Search and Maps products, Google will introduce an auto-delete option for users in the privacy settings. While users will be able to continue to manually delete location and search data held by the internet giant, a new option will soon be available which will automatically delete data after three or 18 months.

“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,” the team said in a blog post.

This is certainly an interesting approach, which could satisfy numerous concerns from all corners of digital society.

Firstly, for the privacy conscious, Google is offering different options for the user to regain control of their personal data. The idea looks simple enough, and relatively transparent. Sceptics will be hunting for a loophole, and quite rightly so, the technology industry has lost the right to credibility when it comes to privacy matters.

Secondly, the retention of data for a short-period of time ensures the Google products can work better. Although popular opinion is turning against hyper-scale personalisation, the advertising machines are making personalisation a dirty word, it is what makes Google’s search engine and mapping product so successful. If Google wasn’t able to train these products to be individualised, they would be pretty generic and awful.

Finally, it still affords Google the opportunity to make money. Privacy concerns aside for the moment, Google still has to be given the opportunity to make money otherwise the products which we have become so reliant on over the last decade will cease to exist. Google is not a registered charity, if it isn’t making money it will no-longer be.

Perhaps the most important factor in this update is the reasonable nature of it. Google is offering terms to the value exchange. It is placing a time limit on its ability to make money from personal data in exchange for offering free services. Admittedly, time constraints are supposedly included in GDPR, though such is the complex and confusing nature of the rules, there are plenty of loopholes and grey areas to expose.

As far as we’re concerned, this is a good move for Google and the digital society on the whole. Yes, Google is perhaps making the best of a difficult situation, claiming PR points by appearing to voluntarily promote privacy in the face of regulatory reform, but it would be nice to see such approaches as industry standard.

On the surface, its reasonable, transparent and fulfils the promise of the digital economy, where Google offers services in exchange for data. Here’s hoping more of the internet giants follow suit.

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