You’ve probably cleared your local browser history before. Maybe you did it just moments ago. Perhaps you didn’t want your partner, roommate or coworkers to see what kind of weirdness you’d been searching for. But clearing the activity data that’s on Google’s servers has never been especially easy — deterring many users from clearing the record of their darkest desires and favourite bad memes. Until now.
Google announced last night that it has simplified the process of deleting your search activity. Users can delete recent search history within the Google search feature on desktop or mobile, without having to dig through settings.
The function will be available on the Android and iOS Google apps within a few weeks, according to a Google blog post announcing the changes. The company plans to introduce the function within Google Maps next year, then other Google applications after that.
Google says it is also making it easier to access privacy controls so users can disable ad personalisation, and easily control which Google applications can save their activity.
Google announced this change on the same day that Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered a keynote speech at a data privacy conference in Brussels, where he cast shade on other Big Tech companies (such as Google and Facebook, though he never named names) that have built what he referred to as the “data-industrial complex” in which our information is “weaponised against us with military efficiency”.
“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance,” Cook said. “And these stockpiles of personal data serve only to enrich the companies that collect them. This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us.”
Cook is seemingly indulging a growing awareness and disgust with how tech companies use personal data, in the wake of numerous privacy controversies such as Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal and a Google Plus data breach that potentially affected hundreds of thousands of users, as well as growing regulation of the data-rich technology industry.