Google is now auto-deleting some activity, but it is not enough

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 25, 2020
Updated • Jun 25, 2020

Google CEO Sundar Pichai published an announcement on the company's official Safety and Security blog yesterday about privacy changes for some Google products.

Google introduced options to auto-delete some activity that the company records last year. Google users may set the auto-deletion to a period of three months or eighteen months, or could keep the manual default option back then. The default was set to manual which meant that Google customers had to know about these privacy options to make the change.

google privacy delete activity

Starting this month, Google switched the default from "manual" to auto-delete for supported activities. What this means is that activity will be deleted automatically for all Google customers based on the new setting.

Customers have options to switch the default, e.g. to manual, to keep the activity indefinitely, or to change the auto-deletion period.

Here is the overview of the activity and the new defaults:

  • Location History -- auto-delete set to 18 months, needs to be turned on by the user.
  • Web & App Activity -- auto-delete set to 18 months for new Google accounts. Existing customers will be informed by email and messages about the new option.
  • Youtube (upcoming) -- auto-delete set to 36 months for new accounts and accounts that turn on the history for the first time.

Some of the activities that Google may record need to be enabled before the recording starts; this is the case for the Location History for example.

Google customers who have configured auto-delete settings already will keep these options. Customers may open the Activity Settings to control auto-delete functionality as well as turn the recording of activity on or off.

Closing Words

Customers need to turn on the recording of activity in some cases before it starts. It is a deliberate decision but some functionality only becomes available if the recording is enabled.

The new default settings to auto-delete old recordings is a step in the right direction but at least some Google customers might find that the default period is too long.

Take YouTube as an example. Google plans to auto-delete activity after 36 months. The period ensures, according to Google, that the site can "make relevant entertainment recommendations".  Three years is a long time when it comes to entertainment and what has been watched two or more years ago may not be of interest anymore while content that is watched regularly may be.

A shorter period that recommendations are based on may provide better recommendations, but recommendations are not really YouTube's strong suit anyway.

The only option that YouTube users have in regards to recommendations is to set the auto-delete period to either 3 months or 18 months manually. The recording can be paused as well and it is possible to access the service without signing in to a Google account.

The company could provide customers with better options, e.g. by allowing them to set a custom range for activity.

Now You: What is your take on the new auto-delete defaults? Do you use Google services while you are signed-in?

Google is now auto-deleting some activity, but it is not enough
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Google is now auto-deleting some activity, but it is not enough
Google CEO Sundar Pichai published an announcement on the company's official Safety and Security blog yesterday about privacy changes for some Google products.
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  1. jake the snake said on June 28, 2020 at 12:33 am

    > Google is now auto-deleting some activity, but it is not enough

    Meanwhile, people trust their intimate lives and often careers and education to Windows 10. How much data does Win10 collect from their users, again?

  2. Anonymous said on June 26, 2020 at 7:17 pm

    If these people don’t know how the human mind behaves by now they will never learn. Why do they want us to sign into their sites so badly?

    Relax said the GQQGLE
    We are programed to recieve
    You can check out any time you like
    But you can never leave

  3. James said on June 25, 2020 at 10:43 pm

    And what about all of Google’s backups and all the data Google already sent to every government agency that routinely collects people’s data?

  4. Anonymous said on June 25, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    What about auto-generated profiles for users that have never signed up? No auto-delete?

  5. Mothy said on June 25, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    Back when I had a Google account always tried to minimize their data collection by only using Gmail, pausing everything under activity controls and never logging into any other service/product. But eventually I came to the realization the only true solution was to dump the account all together. I’ve since moved to ProtonMail instead and also use a blocking hosts file on my computers and rooted Android phone (that’s de-Googled) to further limit their trackers and ads. IMHO they’ve become the opposite of their old motto (Don’t be evil) and cannot be trusted!

    1. mike said on June 25, 2020 at 8:42 pm

      @mothy, I have tried protonmail, but it only gives 0,5gb and that’s not enough for my needs in 2020. I can’t afford to pay them 8 dollars per month for more and they have a 150 messages per day limit, so I went back to gmail. Do you know any email service with at least 10gb for free?

      1. goffety said on June 29, 2020 at 9:40 pm


        If you need to make more than 150 messages per day, and that’s not making you enough money, then I have to say you spend way too much time socializing on email.

        Also, why do you need more than 5 GB of email storage? Just move that crap onto a thumb drive. 32 GB thumb drives are under $8 now.

        In the end, ProtonMail is a great, private, secure, free option, that does far more than most folks need, even in 2020.

  6. LMAO said on June 25, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    It’s funny spreading FUD that your data end up in China when Google is banned there since 2013 because they didn’t comply to censor what chinese goverment wanted.

    1. not funny said on June 29, 2020 at 9:21 pm


      Wrong. Among many reasons, Google left China as they were being hacked by them.

      Also, your data ends up to whomever is willing to pay for it.

      I’m sure personal data from Google still ends up in China.

  7. Addy T. said on June 25, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    I do absolutely not believe that they do truly delete any data. They collect everything, delete nothing. And if they actually deleted the data, various intelligence agencies collect it anyway and keep it. Btw, the “partners” with whom Google shares your data according to their terms of service are intelligence agencies, possibly even those of China.

    1. Peterc said on June 26, 2020 at 12:06 am

      @Addy T.: I was just about to make this snarky post — “Does it get deleted from NSA and GCHQ servers, too? Just curious.” — but you beat me to it. (I was still debating whether to end with a winking smiley.)

  8. know hype said on June 25, 2020 at 2:05 pm


    You say “it is not enough”..

    Hmm, so I take it you are an authority about how Google should do business, or is that just your opinion based on your feelings as an end user?

    Why I ask is that if you have a Google account, then it seems rather silly to expect them to run their business the way you want in regard to this topic.

    In other words, if they do as they say, then it seems rather silly to expect more that that.

    In the end, Google is a business out to make money, and without that there would be no Google to even complain about.

    Perhaps you should simply lower your expectations of Google?

    That all said, I don’t like much of Google’s policies, thus I don’t have an account with them.

  9. Yuliya said on June 25, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    I don’t believe they are deleting it. Hiding it away, maybe would be a better description.

    1. Anonymous said on June 25, 2020 at 10:12 pm

      Exactly, delete in modern data warehousing only means set a flag deleted=1 and exclude those from showing up in searches. Done.

    2. know hype said on June 25, 2020 at 2:46 pm


      That’s a very reasonable assumption, as privacy policies and such are often full of things that may sound good, but the further you dig you may learn it’s at best just ambiguous legal spin, that allows them to do much of whatever they want.

      In other words, they can state they “delete your private data”, but that can mean something else to them, with legal authority to do whatever they want with that data.

  10. Doom said on June 25, 2020 at 11:39 am

    All these portals and auto-deletions are a sham to make the less computer literate feel like they have control of their data. The trouble is they have already collected your data, they have already processed and monetized it by the time you see it, certainly before kindly auto-deleting it in 3-36 months.

    Also where’s the proof they actually auto-delete all of your data or that portals show everything they have on you? For example there are many reports that if you ask FB to show the data they have on you they show one thing, ask again they show something else.

    So it isn’t really newsworthy as it means nothing. MS, FB, Google, Moz and all the rest still need to be forced to ask permission before collecting any data, which I had hoped GDPR would be a big step towards but it has hardly made any difference in reality. All the big companies are still spying on you as much as ever.

  11. Malte said on June 25, 2020 at 11:22 am

    How about not recording activity by default in the first place? Opt-In instead of opt-out.

    1. Anonymous said on June 25, 2020 at 1:01 pm

      I agree, it should be disabled by default and limit by default various stuff for freeloaders. Give only 500 MB to freeloaders and 15 GB to users who have recording enabled.
      Limit search queries to freeloaders and allow more to users who have it enabled.
      Give only SD in YouTube for freeloaders and allow HD to users who have it enabled.
      Default should be no recording with less features.
      No recording at all and all features for premium users who pay with money.
      3 plans, no recording, recording with more features and premium with all features.

      1. Doom said on June 25, 2020 at 4:43 pm

        “Freeloaders” is a disingenuous way of describing people who don’t want to be tracked and monetized. Sensible would be a better description.

      2. Anonymous said on June 25, 2020 at 9:59 pm

        A person who uses a service of a for profit company, a shop etc without giving anything in return is a freeloader.
        Check the definition of it in dictionaries.
        I am sorry if I hurt your feelings, that wasn’t my intention.
        Google should go for a 3 plan on their services, I don’t like their 2 plan.
        Free with generic ads, no tracking and less features for free users (you like that definition better?)
        tracking, targeted ads and more features for intermediate users
        full features/no tracking and no ads for premium users.
        Free plan should be the default.

      3. Clairvaux said on June 26, 2020 at 11:37 am

        “A person who uses a service of a for profit company, a shop etc without giving anything in return is a freeloader.”

        Wrong. Also, don’t start by insulting people, then telling them you’re sorry if they are offended. Freeloader is a derogatory term.

        A person who uses free services provided for free is just that : a user. A legitimate user. If company X does not want to provide services for free, nobody forces it to.

        It’s a strange phenomenon, those people lambasting others just for accepting something that’s been given to them for free. Money really does strange things to people.

      4. XOXmomXOX said on June 29, 2020 at 11:22 pm


        Dear *** [Editor: please stay polite], the word freeloader is not always derogatory. It depends on the context of the way it is used, and it doesn’t become derogatory just because someone claims they are offended or whatever.

        In tech, the word “freeloader” is often used to simply describe users who don’t pay.

        Furthermore, in tech, we sometime need to distinguish between paying users and free users (AKA freeloaders), thus those terms serve us. Thus we can’t simply call them all “users” as you boldly demand we all do, but thanks for the suggestion.

        Also note that “derogatory” means “showing a critical or disrespectful attitude”.

        Anonymous never displayed ANY disrespectful attitude or “lambasting”. In fact, Anonymous apologized and tried to continue the conversation in a positive way. But not only did you reject that, you continued with your harsh criticism, false claims, and demands, which is expected, as we understand and care.

        So, it’s clear to me that the only disrespectful attitude and a lambasting here was from you, which is all good to me. In fact, I specifically love your lambasting, as it make me feel like a spring chicken.

        That said, what I find most offensive, is when folks claim wrong doing over nothing, and then accuse others of what they themselves are actually guilty of, but no matter to me, as it’s all good fun.

        Sure, some may say you displayed a very disrespectful attitude by lambasting Anonymous, but then they don’t know you as I know you, as you are a great person, full of peace, love, and understanding.

        The best thing is, thanks to ghacks, we are free to communicate here, even when we are clearly in the wrong. Yet perhaps you might give up on trying to police people’s words here, as you are likely way too trigger happy and extreme for that job.

        In the end, I love you very much and and hope we can still be very close.

      5. a freethinking freeloader said on July 2, 2020 at 8:51 pm

        Martin Brinkmann has used the term freeloader:

        I see no problem with the way it has been used by Anonymous and Martin.

        Yet perhaps Clairvaux and Doom know better?

      6. Anonymous said on June 25, 2020 at 9:10 pm

        Even if you don’t use anything from Google their spy servers still stalk you across the internet. Also there’s forced use of Recaptcha. There’s also an increase in sites that either require a Google account or the use of Chrome. How do you opt out of that?

      7. Charlotte N. said on June 26, 2020 at 8:44 am

        anomymous 9/10 The sites you visit are using their services to get targeted ads to pay their bills. Bottom line, they don’t go uninvited nowwhere, the sites want to use their services to make money or save money from ddos attacks. Your complaints to ghacks and the other sites you visit that use their services. Make a point, stop visiting these sites and ask them to remove google services from them. They can do it if they want to do it. There is a opt out, stop visting these sites and tell them why you stopped.

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