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Google is rolling out new privacy tools that help users cover their digital footprints on Google-owned websites, while also making sure people are staying safe across the internet.
The first new tool is a password check-up tool that audits all of the passwords a Google account user has stored in Google Chrome. All it takes is one click and a few seconds for the tool to return a list of which passwords may have been compromised in a data breach, along with a tally of how many times a person has reused their password across multiple accounts.
An estimated 59 percent of people reuse their passwords, according to a survey conducted last year by LastPass. Other surveys have also found that a majority of people admit to recycling passwords, simply because they’re easy to remember. The average person has at least 27 online accounts, ranging from online banking and social media to shopping and food delivery accounts, to name a few.
The concept is nothing new. Another website, HaveIBeenPwned.com, allows people to plug in their email address to see if any accounts tied to it may have been breached. However, Google’s effort is taking this idea to a mainstream audience that is becoming more conscious of online security.
While it can be tempting to reuse a password, it’s also incredibly risky. All it takes is one account to be compromised. Hackers can then try an automated tactic called credential stuffing, which lets them try compromised usernames and passwords on other sites to find out which ones work. Google recommends people use its password manager to store unique passwords in Chrome for each account they use.
In addition to tightening up user security across the internet, Google is also offering three new tools to help people control their digital footprints on Google-owned platforms.
Google Assistant, the virtual voice-based helper that lives in Google Home devices, in a Chrome extension, and in a smart phone app, will now delete the last question it was asked, or even everything it was asked last week. While the deletion should work in the coming weeks over voice, when users ask Google Assistant to delete something right now, they’ll receive instructions on how to do so in the Google app or on their “My Activity” page. The feature is being rolled out in English next week, but will be available in other languages next month.
Incognito mode, which allows anyone to turn off browser tracking in Chrome and on YouTube, is also now coming to Google Maps. Anyone who doesn’t want Google to track their map activity can click their profile photo and see an option to turn it on or off in Maps. The feature will also be rolled out to Android in the coming weeks, with plans to bring it to iOS users in the future.
Privacy is, of course, a trade-off. Users who go incognito won’t get the same personalized experience they would otherwise based on what Google knows about them.
Google rolled out a feature in May to let people automatically delete their location data, browsing, and app activity. The feature is now coming to YouTube. Anyone can manually delete their data or set a time frame for when they want Google to forget their YouTube searches.
The new tools are just the latest as the tech giants have spent the past year creating new privacy tools in an effort to convince users — and regulators — that they do not have an iron-clad grip on a person’s data.
“Google’s intentions here are great. The problem unfortunately is that consumers will have a hard time grasping the concept,” said Robert Siciliano, cyber security market expert with ETFMG.com. "However, all that said, for those who grasp the concepts and make a positive change in their cyber security habits, this is of course a good thing."
Google’s latest privacy push comes after Apple unleashed its latest systems update, iOS 13, which includes several new privacy enhancements, including notices about apps using location data, and the ability to sign in to third-party services by using an Apple ID account, instead of Facebook or Google.