- Google will soon let people automatically delete their location information and web history the search giant has stored, according to a company blog post. The privacy feature is a change from its current system that requires users to delete the information manually or to turn it off completely, which could negatively affect its personalized recommendations.
- Google over the next few weeks will update its controls for location history and web and app activity to let each user choose whether they want Google to store their information for three months, 18 months or to maintain the existing system of manual deletion.
- Executives at the tech giant wrote in the blog post that the new privacy feature comes after users have requested simpler ways to manage or delete their location and browsing data.
Google's new privacy controls may have a broad effect on the digital ad market, considering that its Chrome web browser has a 63% market share. The company's compliance to stricter European Union privacy rules enacted last year is providing some early insight. Advertisers are re-examining their reliance on Google's ad tech as the company limits the sharing of data for independent ad-attribution strategies.
Data privacy has become a major liability for tech giants like Google and Facebook that collect vast amounts of user information to help their sponsors improve digital ad targeting with more relevant content based on each user's location and search history. While that information helps marketers reach audiences more efficiently, there are numerous examples of how governments, political parties, hate groups and terrorists have hijacked that cost-effective targeting to sow social strife, sway public opinion or swing election outcomes.
Faced with unprecedented scrutiny of their operations and stricter regulations on data-sharing, Google and Facebook are working to demonstrate that they're serious about protecting consumer privacy. The companies' dominance of the digital ad market means that their policies have an outsized effect on advertisers. Facebook this week made privacy a central theme of its F8 annual develop conference, highlighting how "the future is private." CEO Mark Zuckerberg in March announced that the social network would shift from an open forum to a "digital living room" where discussions can be intimate, short-lived and secure.
Data-privacy restrictions are starting to hit tech companies with mounting legal fees and possible fines. The EU in January fined Google €50 million ($57 million) for not properly disclosing how it collects data from its search engine, Google Maps and YouTube. Google appealed the fine and defended its privacy practices. Meanwhile, Facebook last week estimated it may be fined as much $5 billion for allegedly violating the terms of a data-privacy settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.