Skip to main content

Google will auto-delete your data by default — but there's a catch

(Image credit: Google)

Don't worry, your embarrassing YouTube watch history and browsing data won't linger around for too long.

Google announced that newly created accounts will now feature a default auto-delete setting that will wipe out activity and location data every 18 months. YouTube history will be deleted every 36 months. Existing accounts, though, will still need to opt-in manually (via Wired).

After Apple outlined its new user-privacy principles at WWDC earlier this week (i.e. data minimization, on-device intelligence, security and transparency), Google is following the MacBook maker's footsteps in revealing its own security principles: keeping information safe, treating it responsibly and putting you in control. 

With this auto-delete setting, Google is propelling its devotion to the latter principle — putting you in control — by granting users the ability to wipe out their digital trail with a single click.

How do I auto-delete my Google data?

As aforementioned, newly formed Google accounts will have the auto-delete setting turned on by default, but existing users will have to proactively toggle on the feature themselves. Here's how you can do it.

1. Navigate to Web & Activity page here.

2. Scroll down to the Auto-delete section and click on it.

3. There will be two options: "Auto-delete activity older than 3 months" and "Auto-delete activity older than 18 months." Choose the time frame that best fits your needs.

4. Click on "Next." This will lead you to a "Preference saved" page that confirms your new setting.

How to auto-delete data on Google

(Image credit: Google)

According to the Google blog, three months and 18 months are the only time frames that are available to users because the search-engine giant maintains that retaining at least 18 months of data is useful for personalized content, such as keeping your favorite destinations on Google Maps. Holding on to years and years of user data, on the other hand, is futile.

Google added that it will be bringing the auto-delete option to YouTube, but the default retention period will last 36 months to offer YouTube recommendations that best cater to users' viewing tastes.

It's also worth noting that Gmail, Drive and Photos will remain untouched during an auto-delete annihilation.

In the past, Google received backlash for collecting and retaining users' online trail without transparency, so perhaps Google is hoping to win back security-minded users by giving them the impression that they have some control over their data.

Google maintains that it does not sell user information to anyone, and personal content stored in Gmail, Drive, Calendar and Photos are not exploited for targeted advertisements.