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Google unveils new controls for automatically deleting data after 3 or 18 months

Google on Wednesday announced an upcoming, privacy-friendly feature that will automatically delete user location history and web and app activity data after a specified period of time.

The new controls will be rolled out in the coming weeks, Google revealed in a blog post authored by David Monsees, "Search" product manager, and Marlo McGriff, "Maps" product manager.

At that point Search and Map users will be set the controls to delete their data after either a three-month period or an 18-month period.

"You should always be able to manage your data in a way that works best for you -- and we’re committed to giving you the best controls to make that happen," the blog post states.

Google already allows users to turn on and off location and activity tracking, but this new addition will allow them to temporary hold onto information that could prove useful to them, without it being stored forever.

Google's offering seeks to address growing concerns over the privacy implications of tech companies gathering location data and other information on customers. It's these same concerns that reportedly inspired FCC Commission Jessica Rosenworcel yesterday to send letters to major telecom companies, seeking an update on their stated commitment to stop selling location data, including augmented global positioning system location data, to third-parties such as location aggregation services.

Rosenworcel separately reached out to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, requesting a response. The commissioner also asked the telecom companies to specify what steps they are taking to ensure data aggregators delete or destroy any previously shared user location data. The inquiry comes after recent reports (including this one from Motherboard) accusing telecom companies of selling this information without proper user consent.

"Real-time location information is sensitive data deserving the highest level of privacy protection. But it is evident from press reports that this data may have been sold without the explicit consent of consumers and without appropriate safeguards in place," Rosenworcel wrote in her letter to the telecom giants.

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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