It’s common knowledge that online platforms like Google use data from users to deliver services and ads to consumers. However, there is growing concern that companies like Google and Facebook have too much data on consumers. For the past few years, these internet giants have been trying to make changes to their platforms before legal action threatens the entire business model. Last week, Google launched new features that will make it easier to hide personal activity and to use more Google services in Incognito mode.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which makes it an appropriate time for Google to officially launch new privacy features. Many of these features had been teased earlier in the year, and now they are officially available in the U.S., with other markets to be added soon.
Incognito mode is one of the most popular features on the Google Chrome browser. It only takes a moment to use, and consumers can start surfing the web without data from the session being saved. Earlier this year, the feature was expanded to YouTube, and now it’s being added to Google Maps.
With the new Incognito mode for Maps, consumers can prevent their Maps activity on that device, such as the places a person searches for, won’t be saved to their Google Account or used for personalization. Users can enter Incognito mode for Maps by selecting it from the menu, where the option appears when a person taps on their profile photo. It’s also easy to turn the mode off. Google is quick to remind users that the data they collect is used to create a personalized Maps experience with “restaurant recommendations, information about your commute, and other features tailored to you.”
Another newly added feature that’s getting an upgrade is the Auto-delete function. Back in May 2019, Google introduced a way for users to automatically delete information, such as location history and app activity, from their browser. Google is expanding that feature to YouTube. With the Auto-delete added to YouTube History, a person can set the time period to keep data before deleting it. For example, it can be set to three months, 18 months, or until you delete it.
As more consumers used voice assistants, there is a growing concern about the privacy of the people who use these features. For example, many users were surprised to learn that companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon listen to random voice assistant recordings to help them refine the service. These revelations have made people warier about what they say to a voice assistant and how long their data is saved.
Google has made it simpler for users to find out what happens to their data by making it one of the questions that the Google Assistant can answer. Also, the company is making it easier to delete activity.
According to Google, “In the coming weeks, you’ll be able to delete Assistant activity from your Google Account just by saying things like “Hey Google, delete the last thing I said to you” or “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you last week.” You won’t need to turn on any of these features—they will work automatically when you ask the Assistant for help. If you ask to delete more than a week’s worth of data from your account, the Assistant will point you directly to the page in your account settings to complete the deletion.”
There’s not much for marketers to do in response to these changes from Google. Most users won’t take advantage of these features, so it’s unlikely to significantly affect online marketing and advertising efforts.
For more recent news about the latest changes to Google services, read this article about Google’s test to add timestamps to videos in search results.