Enhanced privacy mechanisms continue to pop up for consumers. The latest is from Google and allows you to instantly delete the last 15 minutes of search history from your iPhone. The same feature will be rolled out to Android phone users later this year.
It may seem odd that Google chose iOS over its own operating system to be first for the new feature, but the numbers tell the story. Google’s search engine is used on 93% of mobile phones in this country and 54% of that total are iPhones, leaving 46% to Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy series, according to Statista, an analyst firm. Prioritizing the largest market makes sense.
To access the new feature, you must have the Google Search app installed on your phone. While Safari does use Google by default, if you don’t go through the app, you’ll see the desktop version and it won’t have the 15-minute delete option. You can still delete your history manually or set up an auto-delete for three, 18 or 36 months. Alternatively, you can search using Incognito mode. All you have to do is long press your avatar photo to switch to Incognito Mode. This can be especially helpful if you need to use your iPhone as a work and as a personal device.
So to quickly get to the 15-minute delete option, open the Google app on your phone and then tap your photo in the upper right corner. In the list under search history, you’ll see “Delete last 15 min.” Tap and that’s it! If you don’t see the new feature, keep checking because it is currently rolling out to users.
Google also offers the option to password protect your search history. Head back to your main page in the app by tapping on your photo as described above. Tap on “Search history” and then open “Saving to Web & App Activity.” Here you’ll see all of the Google products that are capturing your search activity, including YouTube, Google Shopping, News, Maps and more. Scroll down to see your search history, which may surprise you in its completeness. This could be useful if you forgot a website you’d like to revisit, but you may want to keep these results private from others who have access to your phone. If that’s the case, tap on “Manage all Web & App Activity” and then “Manage My Activity verification.” Here you can turn on extra verification, which will then require a password before viewing or deleting your search history to make sure it’s you requesting access.
For extra privacy for your photos, Google’s Photo app now offers a passcode protected Locked Folder to keep sensitive photos out of sight. Maybe you’re shopping for a special gift and keeping screenshots for easy reference or you’ve ended a relationship with someone and don’t want to see his or her face every time you scroll through your camera roll. Currently, Locked Folder is only available to Android users.
But iPhone users can also hide individual photos using Apple’s Hide feature in its Photos app. Open the Photos app, select the photos you want to hide, tap the share icon in the bottom left of your screen and then scroll down on the menu to find Hide. To unhide photos, tap Albums in the app, scroll down and tap Hidden under Utilities, select the photo you want to unhide. Now tap the Share icon and choose Unhide.
The Maps app has also been updated with a new privacy feature. You will now receive Location History reminders in your Maps Timeline. When you see places you’ve visited in your Timeline, Google will remind you that it’s because you turned on Location History, which you can be turned off right there in the Timeline.
Google has prioritized privacy in recent app updates, and there’s more to come. When Google releases its public version of Android 12 this fall, there will be a new Privacy Dashboard that will let you see when apps accessed your camera, microphone or device location. There will also be indicators that show when your camera or microphone are in use, as well as toggles to disable access to both across your device. You will also be able to share your approximate location with an app instead of a precise one.