Google is now set to start the widespread rollout of privacy controls across Assistant, YouTube, password manager. Google Maps will be gaining new privacy features as well. At least two of those features appear to be entirely new, while the other half were previously known.
First, Google says that it is going to be giving users the ability to delete their Google Assistant voice history. Those are the clips that are taken and stored after the AI assistant recognizes the hot-word “Ok Google” or “Hey Google.”
While users have already been able to delete that history, now they’ll be able to do that using Google Assistant. That means using voice to delete history rather than having to navigate Google’s complex account menus. Google provides the examples of “delete the last thing I said,” or “delete everything I said to you last week.”
Saying either of those will prompt the AI will accomplish the requested task. Anything older than that and it will navigate the appropriate menus for users. Namely, it will take users directly to the page to manage their voice data.
The latest YouTube privacy controls come down to letting users automatically delete search and viewing histories at set intervals. That will be found in the same location as Location History and Web & App Activity. A new card, labeled YouTube history, will now be settable just as those other histories are.
Users will be able to use controls on that card to set it to step away from the default manual deletion. The options, although limited, include the deletion of that data every three months or every 18 months.
Which Google privacy controls were already expected?
The two features announced that aren’t entirely unexpected include a Chrome-based password manager update and Google Maps Incognito Mode. Each was already hinted at in various reports.
The first effectively brings Chrome’s Password Checker extension, through direct integration with the password manager. That means that Chrome will now check passwords stored in association with a Google Account, at a click. So users will be able to navigate to their passwords via the interface stored in Chrome’s Account Settings page. Those are found at the URL “passwords.google.com” for those who haven’t set an encryption passphrase for syncing data.
In effect, Google is enabling users to check whether passwords are being used for multiple accounts or whether they’ve been compromised in known breaches. The tool will also check the strength of passwords.
Incognito mode for Google Maps is exactly what it sounds like. It allows users to turn off Maps location tracking in-app at the tap of a setting found behind their profile image. The app will inform users they are switching, much as Chrome does in incognito mode. Then a slim black bar across the top will keep them informed until they leave incognito mode.
With the mode active, Google won’t store the location data and it won’t be used for personalization of recommendations or the like.
The timeframes here
The driving force behind the decision by Google to roll out new privacy features may or may not have anything to do with its position in the market. Namely, the company has faced widespread opposition to its practices in terms of storing and accessing user data. Each new feature at least partially addresses that on some level. But there’s no guarantee that’s the motivation driving these changes.
Some of its activities on that front, such as the recent bid to add a layer of encrypted DNS over TLS in Chrome, have been more controversial. Despite providing users with added protection, the move could potentially be anti-competitive, pending a probe into its plans.
Irrespective of that, Google Maps incognito mode will come to Android this month. There’s no word on iOS either or an exact timeline for that. Within the next week, voice commands will roll out to Google Assistant that allows users to delete their voice history. That will only be for English, with the feature coming to all languages next month.
Google indicates that the rollout of remaining privacy controls features should already be rolling out.