Just in time for Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Google has announced a new set of data control and security options to help users better maintain their digital presence, and avoid potential misuse.
First off, Google's adding a new incognito mode to Google Maps, giving you the option to hide your location history.
As per Google:
"When you turn on Incognito mode in Maps, your Maps activity on that device, like the places you search for, won’t be saved to your Google Account and won’t be used to personalize your Maps experience. You can easily turn on Incognito mode by selecting it from the menu that appears when you tap your profile photo, and you can turn it off at any time to return to a personalized experience with restaurant recommendations, information about your commute, and other features tailored to you."
Google would clearly prefer users keep incognito mode off, given all the benefits it lists here (and the data it collects as a result), but now, users will have the option, which should provide some assurance to those concerned about location tracking. Or those who just don't want someone looking up their Google Maps history and seeing where they've been.
Incognito mode for Google Maps will begin rolling out on Android this month, with iOS to follow soon.
Google's also adding a new option which will enable users to set an auto-delete timer on their YouTube viewing and search history.
As you can see here, users will have the option to set their auto-delete time period for 3 months time, 18 months, or manually enacted, giving you control over how long YouTube tracks your activity, and also provides recommendations based on that listing.
One particularly beneficial use to this could be for parents of young kids who watch YouTube on the same device, and who's viewing habits change pretty fast. Set your YouTube history to delete after 3 months and stop getting recommendations for that annoying song they once watched over and over and over again.
And amid all the discussion around how voice clips from assistant devices have been used and or misused for research purposes by various tech companies, Google is also providing a new option to delete your history of voice commands to your Google Assistant.
As per 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."
The use of voice commands via assistant devices is on the rise, with Google itself shipping more than 52 million Google Home devices already. Having a digital service easily accessible around the home is becoming more helpful, and more common, but with that comes a range of additional privacy concerns, with the in-built microphone able to connect your private home life to the web. This option will help provide additional assurance on this front.
And lastly, Google is rolling out a new password check-up tool, which will tell you if any of your passwords are weak, whether you’ve reused them across multiple sites, or if they've been compromised in a third-party data breach.
As you can see in the example above, Password Check-Up is an optional tool. When you chose 'Check Passwords', you'll be taken through to a listing of information about your password, where you'll also be able to change it and update your details.
Given the propensity of data breaches, such options are becoming increasingly necessary. Google has underlined this even further with a new study of American password habits, conducted in conjunction with The Harris Poll.
Given the trends - and likely what you know of your own habits - it's worth going through the password check process. You can check out the passwords saved to your Google account here.
These are some valuable tools, and some good steps made by Google towards increasing user control, and improving digital privacy. In future, data security is only going to become a more pressing issue, with more of our interactions taking place online, so providing options to help users maintain and manage such can only be beneficial.
So long as the data you discard is actually deleted, of course.