Google Works To Make Privacy, Incognito Easier On Mobile

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Google is taking steps to bring privacy and incognito mode to the forefront across a number of mobile apps at a tap or with a quick search. That's based on recently reported changes announced by the company.

To begin with, the company is planning changes that make at least some privacy tools available with a search. In the future, Google users who are signed in will be able to simply search to check just how secure their account is. By asking "is my Google account secure" or "Google Privacy Checkup" for example, users will be able to gain quick access to that latter tool.

Google Privacy Checkup will appear in a card at the top of search results, viewable only by the user. That card grants access to data saved by the company and other related privacy controls. Password checkups will additionally be added to that page as well, falling in line with its future removal as a standalone extension.

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Aside from privacy checkups, Google will "soon" release an update to its Maps and YouTube apps, for example, that will make getting to Incognito Mode easier. In effect, users will be able to simply long-press on their profile picture to switch over. Better still, Google is working on a way to ensure that users stay in the associated incognito mode across all services until they exit the mode.

No clear timeline has been given though for any of the changes, although iOS users can already enter incognito mode with a long-press.

Google is also making timed account history deletion automatic

Looking past changes to how Google handles privacy and how incognito mode will work in the future, Google also revealed that it plans to make account history deletion automatic. At least for new users, starting from today.

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For clarity, this refers to Location, Web & App Activity, and YouTube histories. Those are typically saved by the company in order to give users "more personalized experiences." Not everybody loves that idea. Privacy advocates and those who are concerned about security, in particular.

Now, Google allows users to delete that data. And they can even set up the data to be deleted automatically after a set period. After the changes made today, new users will have those features turned on by default. The timeframes here will be a bit different too, in terms of how long the company keeps the data. It isn't going to be deleted immediately.

For location data tracking, that will be automatically deleted after 18-months. That's if users choose to turn on the tracking. Web & App Activity will be saved automatically for the same period, whereas it was previously saved indefinitely. YouTube History will be saved for double that length of time by Google and then deleted.

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Some new Google privacy and incognito features won't apply outside of mobile, for now

There doesn't appear to be any plan in place to move the quick-access features outside of Android and iOS. Or at least when it comes to the long-press action for incognito mode. That could change in the future but it's not immediately apparent how Google would implement it. Especially since touchscreen computers aren't ubiquitous and not all of the apps it will arrive for are available there either.

Setting aside incognito mode, the change in favor of privacy via automatic data deletion also isn't necessarily going to be as great as might be hoped. Now, previously, deleting account data was a much more arduous task. It required a list of actions to get to the appropriate settings menu. And, in some cases such as Chrome, stopping long-term tracking was not something that was easy to figure out how to do.

That is not necessarily changing here. Automatic deletion in its most recent form only happens every three or 18 months. That's at the user's discretion and otherwise, the data was saved indefinitely. Now, data will be saved as described above. And it only applies to new accounts. Current users may still need to go through the above-mentioned steps to turn it on.

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Google Privacy incognito mode changes from 9to5Google
Google is proactively working to address incognito mode and privacy concerns, making the tools easier to use