Mountain View, CA — Google has released a new page to make it easier for users to delete previously deleted data, such as search, location, and voice history. The company already had functionality in place to delete this type of data, but it was recently discovered that deleted data was actually saved by Google’s servers to allow their AI technology to learn about users’ deletion habits and provide a more personalized deletion experience.
Aparna Chennapragada, Director of Product and Engineering at Google, explained the recent release of this new functionality.
“We’ve listen to our users and we understand what they want, and what they need,” she said at the latest Google I/O event. “By seeing what they are deleting, and how, it allows us to build better tools and more robust experiences for them now, and going forward. We will never stop listening to our customers and providing services that they ask for.”
Asked why the data was not deleted from Google’s services, when users originally deleted it, she disagreed with the premise.
“It was actually deleted. When a users asks us to remove their search history, for example, we do remove it. From the search servers. Same with voice, and any other data that they ask us to remove. However, we capture that usage, and its related content, and that is then saved to our deletion servers, which do keep that content for a short period of time before it is deleted from that location. This is really to help our AI team to learn about how users are using our deletion technology and how they can provide a better user experience in the future.”
She was not able to say how long a “short period of time” was, with regard to the data being saved on Google’s deletion servers, but said that it was “not very long, relative to human lifespans.”
Privacy advocates were not happy to learn that users will now have to delete data multiple times before it is actually removed from Google’s servers.
“This is insane, actually. The very definition of ‘insane’,” said William Budington, a Security Engineer & Technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The words escape me, trying to even communicate how bad this is. When a user tells a company to delete something that they are storing, it must be removed from their servers. At some point, companies need to understand that they require people to function, not the other way around.”
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