Google has disclosed that most people were opting for the ‘keep data until I delete manually’ option as the default in its new privacy settings. Reacting to questions on how it had left it to users to figure out the settings, which supposedly offered better privacy, Google’s Chief Privacy officer Keith Enright told indianexpress.com that the “current deletion window is tied to product functionality being good. If we reduce it, then product experience will be eroded.”
Speaking in a video interaction with journalists, he explained that longer retention helps provide more personalised approach for users.
At this year’s I/O 2019 conference, Google put the focus on privacy, announcing new simplified settings for users. CEO Sundar Pichai then wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, arguing that Google did not view privacy as a luxury good, in what was seen as a dig at Apple and its expensive products.
Google is now letting users delete their Web & App Activity after a certain period. The three options right now are keep the data until I delete manually, delete after three months and delete after 18 months. But the default option is the data should be kept indefinitely. Google plans to extend this option for deleting data to one’s location history as well.
Asked whether why they didn’t opt for a more pro-privacy approach by making the option to store less data as default, rather than leaving the onus on the user to do this, Enright said their approach was to work in a manner consistent with user expectations.
“Many internet services require data to do the kind of things that a user expects. For example we cannot offer Gmail with zero retention.We try to understand user expectation, what kinds of retention and processing is needed to give a good experience. Of course, we are always open to improving and updating to the best of our user’s requirements,” he said.
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According to him, Google was also trying to balance user experience with privacy. “Whenever we are contemplating new privacy features, there are a number of considerations that we keep in mind. How is it going to affect user experience in generally? If you were to ask for consent for every individual data processing, that could be extremely disruptive for the user,” he added.
Enright also denied that Google was not trying to deliberately hide privacy settings from users. “Some people wrongly believe that we don’t want users to optimise their Google account for privacy. Users have higher level of confidence when they visit these settings, and it builds their trust,” Google chief privacy officer said. “We promote privacy checkups on the Google homepage, which is some of the most expensive real-estate on the web,” he added.
Enright did not confirm a rollout date for Incognito mode to come to Search and Maps, announced at I/O 2019. The Incognito mode ensures that a user’s data is not tracked and stored by the company when the setting is turned on in Chrome or YouTube. The company refused to confirm whether this would be available by end of 2019 for Search and Maps as well.
He also highlighted that Google was moving towards innovating with privacy by working on Federated Learning, wherein data for AI and machine learning models is processed on the device itself, rather than being sent to the cloud as is the current approach. Google has not yet confirmed how soon the Federated Learning approach will be applied to its products.