Google unveils new privacy features for Maps, YouTube

Google unveils new privacy features for Maps, YouTube
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Google on Wednesday unveiled a set of new privacy features for products including Google Maps and YouTube, marking the company's latest effort to address privacy and surveillance concerns amid new scrutiny.

In a blog post, the tech giant announced several new features that allow users to hide their data and personal activities from Google. 

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Starting later this month, users will be able to turn on "incognito mode" for Google Maps, meaning the company won't save the places the user searches for and won't use that data to offer personalized suggestions, according to the post. 

"When you turn on Incognito mode in Maps, your Maps activity on that device, like the places you search for, won’t be saved to your Google Account and won’t be used to personalize your Maps experience," Erin Miraglia, Google's director of product management in its privacy and data protection office, wrote.

The feature is only available to Android users, but Miraglia wrote it will come to iPhones "soon."

On YouTube, users will now be able to "auto-delete" their YouTube history, meaning the video-sharing platform won't store information on what they've watched and scrolled through.

Google will allow users to delete their data from the Google Assistant via voice command. Users will be able to delete data by speaking commands such as, "Hey Google, delete the last thing I said to you” or “Hey Google, delete everything I said to you last week."

The company faced an onslaught of criticism over the summer when it confirmed that its workers were listening to some audio recordings captured by its smart devices. Google ultimately said in a blog post that it uses contractors to study some recordings to learn how it can make its technology work "for a wide variety of languages, accents and dialects.” Since then, it has unveiled several features that offer users more control over how Google Assistant uses their voice recordings. 

In addition, the company announced on Wednesday it is implementing a "password checkup" feature to allow users to see if their passwords are weak or need to be tweaked to increase their cybersecurity.

Google has launched a concerted public relations effort to frame itself as privacy-focused, including spending big on a global advertising campaign and offering a slew of new features aimed at giving users more control over how much data they share. For months, Google has been releasing information on its new privacy tools as Congress trudges ahead in its efforts to draw up federal privacy legislation, which could ultimately restrict or provide safeguards around how big tech companies like Google are able to collect and use data. 

"As technology evolves, so do people's expectations for security and privacy," Miraglia wrote. "We look forward to building protections that aim to exceed those expectations, and will continue sharing regular updates about this work."

Google has access to more user data than nearly any company in the world, and is best-known for using that information to target advertisements towards users.