Recently, Google announced new features to enhance Google account’s privacy. These features include Maps Incognito, Password Checkup, and YouTube auto-delete settings. This announcement was not the first one to concern Google’s focus on privacy. In fact, Google has been trying to urge users to continue trusting Google products and its privacy plan, which has been reflected in its various press releases throughout this year. Earlier this year, Google started allowing users to block cookies on Chrome. It then launched the in-built task manager and recently announced upcoming versions of Chrome, that would block mixed content on the browser sessions.
It sounds quite impressive, especially given the pace at which Google is working to sustain Google accounts’ privacy and security. But, what no one has thought is how these features are being useful (if they are) and no one has undoubtedly asked the question as to how reliable the new privacy plan actually is.
A recently published article on a media website has cited concerns over these new features. Today we discuss those concerns and reflect our opinion over them. Let’s find out how valid these concerns are and whether the new Google privacy features act in favor of users, or it’s just another of Google’s facade.
What is the New Auto-Delete Feature in Google Privacy Settings?
Google has embedded new features in account settings for deleting search history on YouTube and Google Assistant. On YouTube, Google account holders are now able to auto-delete YouTube search history that dates back at least three months. This means when your search history turns three-months-old, it would be automatically wiped out from Google servers.
Similarly, in Google Assistant, you’d be able to delete anything you’ve searched on the app using voice command. But, you can delete those searches using voice commands which date back to seven days. Anything searched before that would have to be deleted manually from Google Assistant App settings.
Though it sounds good to have these searches under control, this way, users won’t have to delete the data manually and can be at peace as their data won’t stay on the web for long. But a genuine concern has emerged in this regard.
Why is Auto-Delete Feature Useless for Google Account Privacy?
Jared Newman wrote for Fast Company that these new features are ‘worthless’. Newman suggests that any data collected by Google from people’s search history is rendered useless after a specific time period. Newman proposes that three-months-old searches won’t provide any useful user information to Google’s advertising model, and this is the reason that Google is allowing users to delete old searches. The argument is that Google would have very well benefited from your YouTube searches by the time they’ll be deleted.
And what’s the harm in dumping documents that are of no use, right?
It’s a valid argument. Why would Google deflect from its primary business model, which is targeting ads? Without user data, Google’s business model won’t work, and we know Google would never do that. So, it won’t be a surprise if these features meant for Google account’s privacy are nothing but a facade to fool users.
But, that’s not entirely true. There are factors that this claim neglects and we believe that there is much more to point out before concluding.
Targeting Ads is not A Primary Privacy Threat
As per the argument, it is a fact that Google has a massive amount of user information which the company uses to target ads and make money. On YouTube, targeting ads is more beneficial financially. First, they are in visual formats, allowing companies to add more content to their promotions. Then, users have to watch them for at least five seconds, which increase the ads’ impact on users. Plus, if you pay more, you get non-skippable ads. This extra money adds millions to Google’s vault.
But, targeting ads does not pose users a significant privacy threat. The threat is posed if any of the data collected by Google falls in the hands of identity thieves, hijackers, and stalkers. These people can manipulate that data to commit illicit activities, and they may misuse your information for any illegal purpose.
Yes, some advertisements contain malicious injections, but there is very little evidence of such ads targeted by Google on a platform like YouTube. Google has been keen on promoting SSL-certified sites only on searches, and there are very few incidents where these sites pull additional data from unprotected sources. The most common phishing and account hijacking attempts made using ads are made via email. And those emails come from fraudulent sources. Hardly any ad on Google top sites has been proved to be malicious.
Yes, it’s true Google has failed to protect user privacy in the past. Google did fail to stand up to its responsibility, and many Google servers were breached to steal user credentials. But, Google was only responsible for not implementing security measures, not for organizing those breach attacks.
Google Business Model Depends on Data
Another factor to notice is the time-period Google keeps the data on its servers. It isn’t necessarily essential that Google won’t be needing that YouTube search data after three months. It has built this long-lasting Google advertising business based on years and years of data logs. If Google has been dumping data in such a short period, it’s a commercial advantage would have been a bit low. Of course, it wouldn’t have affected the profits, but someone else would have advantaged in competition against Google’s advertising business.
Moreover, it isn’t like advertisers won’t target you. They will, regardless of these new Google privacy features. If you search for a brand on Google, that brand will make direct communication with your account, thus targeting ads. These ads won’t be targeted via your Google accounts, but via your device’s IMEIs, and therefore, they’ll stick even though Google deletes your searches.
Yes, Google has been eating up our information for its profits, but here, we think that Google has taken a reasonable step to ensure Google accounts’ privacy. It’s a small step, and Google ads are going nowhere despite this measure. That business model will thrive no matter what. But that fact doesn’t make this new Google privacy feature entirely useless.
And if it is so true that this is all a facade. If it’s true that Google uses up all the information in a matter of days. And if it’s true that Google is making this feature to camouflage users. Then you must know, users always have the option to delete history themselves or go incognito. Why would’ve Google have given that control to users if it has no regard for user privacy? Think about that!
Let us know your views on this matter in the comments section. Tell us if you think this is all a facade. And for more blog updates, add us on your Facebook and Twitter, and get the latest blog updates.