Google new delete history feature is almost useless for privacy, experts warn


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It’s no secret for anyone that Google benefits from collecting and selling user data – this is a major part of their business whether we like it or not. 

Whenever you’re typing something and the search engine auto-completes the term before you even finished the first word is not a coincidence, and neither when an ad of the new gadget you want seems to follow you around. Google knows what you are up to, they keep a track of your browsing history, YouTube views, and more.

However, this fact has garnered them backlash and that isn't so good for business. To deflect some of that negative attention, the company released privacy tools meant to help users to protect their privacy. One of these tools is Google's activity controls page, where users can opt to delete web and app activity every 3 or 18 months automatically.

Although the intention is good, critics and experts claim that it is kind of useless, because by that time Google has already extracted anything valuable out of it.

A not so useful privacy feature from Google

As pointed out by the head of digital Ad firm WPromote, David Dweck, only the information up to one month old is relevant for advertisers. Therefore, the more recent your data is, the more valuable it is for Google and business partners. 

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Dweck also explains that it is rare for advertisers to target individuals based on data beyond that period. It happens, but it’s not a common practice.  

“I feel like them auto-scrubbing data every three months is really lip service,” Dweck says. “It’s not some massive change, because the reality is that no one was really buying that data.

“Once you’ve taken an action on an advertiser’s website, for us that 90-day window doesn’t matt.”

In this sense, deleting browsing and app data every 3 months is not too much of an improvement as companies are simply no longer interested in that. On the other hand, the last 24 hours activity is extremely valuable for advertisers, so, don’t expect an option to delete your Google data every single day.

Of course, it is always possible to delete all data by hand without having to wait for so long. However, this has to be done from 3 places: your browsing history, YouTube, and locations history. 

Google’s response to this critic is elusive at best. The company claims that the frame time is based on user preference and that they are working to improve it in the future. 

To further rub salt into the wound, even if users purge all their data regularly, the websites they visit are capable of keep tracking them without Google’s help.

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Fabrizio Bulleri
Fabrizio Bulleri is a tech reporter with several years of experience covering the Asian tech market. He likes traveling and keeping up with everything digital-related. [email protected]