Following revelations that many third-party extensions to Google’s Chrome browsers were collecting data in an unethical way, the company has announced broad changes to its default data practices for users, including a significant expansion in the company’s willingness to automatically delete data. CEO Sundar Pichai revealed the news on these changes in an effort to reaffirm the company’s commitment to privacy, security, and user choice:
As we design our products, we focus on three important principles: keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control. Today, we are announcing privacy improvements to help do that
As a result, Google’s auto-delete feature which applies to search history (on web or in-app), location history, and voice commands collected through the Google Assistant or devices like Google Home, which originally needed to be toggled on and set to an 18-month deletion schedule (a 3-month deletion policy is available, but needs to be selected). The system also extends to YouTube history, although the default will be set to three years to ensure the broader data can be used by the platform’s recommendation algorithms.
For those unfamiliar with Chrome’s rec3nt security issue, the company had confirmed that researchers discovered more than 70 malicious extensions that had contained spyware and stole users browsing history and data that stored credential access. These extensions had somehow found their way past Google’s automated screening process and subsequently downloaded 32 million times. Google has revealed that they have fixed these screening errors and removed the extensions, though it is perhaps in everyone’s best interest to be very careful with the extensions they install and try not to keep too much data stored in Chrome.
Google will also make it easier for users to use Chrome’s Incognito mode, allowing mobile users to switch to Incognito mode with a long press on their profile picture. The feature launches today on iOS and will soon come to Android and other platforms.
Last Updated: June 26, 2020