Google: Not Built for Deletion

Last week Google announced that it would delete users’ histories on new accounts, by default. For existing accounts, the options have always been available. Google didn’t want to change the default for existing users. Meaning, if you already have an account, you’ll have to make the changes yourself.

Google’s support pages provide instructions on how to Delete Your Activity. You can also learn how to set up scheduled deletions.

Deletion by default is a big deal. I never liked the idea of data being collected just because it can be. Or as a way to “improve customer experience.” This is really just something companies say when they are giving us something for free in exchange for collecting our data. The companies then monetize this data, usually with targeted advertising.

Personally, I find this a bit creepy. However, I know lots of people that appreciate the focused advertising, catering to their needs and likes.

Activity controls in your Google account are available for: Web and App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History. Choosing to save your activities provides… “for better personalization across Google. Turn on or pause these settings at any time.

Being The Deletist, I felt compelled to investigate the new deletion options. However, I had paused my activities a long time ago. So I didn’t really have much to delete. Also, as an existing customer, I had already set my auto-deletion to 3 months for everything. I probably did this right when the option became available.

Even though Google is now trying to be more transparent and make it easier for us to have some kind of “control” over our data, it’s still tricky to navigate. Many options are buried several layers deep in the settings. And a lot of people probably never even check their settings. If they do, they likely don’t have time to go through all the choices. It can be overwhelming at times.

I suppose this is why Google decided to do deletion by default. It’s not perfect, mostly because Google still retains some data. Even with anonymizing the data, as Google claims to do, I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of having data collected about me and my habits. But if I want to be part of society, that’s the price to pay.

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