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Security & privacy

The secret Google doesn’t want you to know about its tool to auto-delete your data

Companies like Google are always looking for new ways to collect data about you. This is because their business model is based on selling ads. The more companies know about you, the better they can tailor their ads to your tastes. Click or tap to see everything Google knows about you.

But not everyone thinks this is a good thing. Data harvesting backlash prompted Google to introduce settings to  automatically purge user data after a period of time. Though it seems Google changed things for the better, experts question whether Google’s auto-delete tool really does anything at all for your privacy.

Google’s auto-delete tool clears your private information after a set period of time. Meanwhile, your data is still available for Google to mine while you wait for it to disappear. Does this window of time really benefit user privacy? Or is it all a smokescreen so Google can act with impunity? Here’s what we know, as well as what you can do to step-up your data security.

A window of opportunity

Skepticism is growing among analysts and experts over Google’s approach to automatic data purging. In May of 2019, the company enabled a feature that allowed users to have their data automatically deleted after a 3-or-18-month time frame. The company claims  this gives users more control over how their data is being used.

Advertising executives believe Google has already extracted any value from users’ data far before the 3 month mark even hits.

According to Fast Company, multiple advertising agents and leaders are speaking out about the uselessness of Google’s auto-delete settings. They claim recent data is far more valuable for targeted ads than old data, and most firms are only interested in what users are searching for up to a period of 1 month. This is a full 2 months shorter than the shortest auto-delete setting Google offers.


Related: How to auto delete your Google history and data


This is because more recent data allows advertisers to hone in on products and services that may be fresh in your memory. Marketing is all about triggering an emotional reaction to part a person from their money. With outdated information, these ad firms (and Google, by extension) will be less effective in their goal.

What’s more, one executive even described Google’s settings as not much more than “lip service,” and mentions deleting data doesn’t stop independent ad agencies from tracking you. This is especially true if you’re logged into Facebook while visiting other websites.

Is there any point to purging my Google data?

That depends on whether or not you’re comfortable with the company holding on to your data indefinitely. Any information associated with your account can still be used to build an advertising profile about you — regardless of how old it is. Using the auto-purge settings at least keeps your data from leaving a long-term footprint.

That said, the advertising executives aren’t wrong about the option being lip service. It gives the company cover in the event that it comes under fire for future privacy violations.

If you really want to avoid being tracked by ads, you’re better off manually deleting what Google knows about on an ongoing basis. Click or tap to see how to delete what Google knows about you.

Alternatively, using a privacy-focused search engine can help you avoid ad trackers in the first place. Click or tap to see Kim’s recommendation for the most private search engine on the web. Most importantly, log out of Facebook when browsing anywhere else on the internet. It’s doing more to track you at this point than Google!

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