Google has just introduced password protection to your "Web and Activity" log, which is the page that shows just about everything you’ve been doing online through Google services.
This is good news for privacy-conscious users as the activity page contains a treasure trove of user data, including YouTube viewing history and Google searches, among other meaty data deposits. It’s also accessible to any device where you’ve logged in with your Google account — in other words, very open to prying eyes.
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Most of our digital lives rely on a Google device or product in some way or another to navigate the web. Whether this comes from one of the best Android phones or from the Chrome browser, our activity is compiled and stashed away to review later on through the My Activity (opens in new tab) service page.
My Activity doesn't just contain YouTube and search data, though: it also keeps a log of your daily app usage or anything you've browsed on Google Maps. Because all of this data is confidential, Google has created an extra layer of security to keep things strictly locked down.
Switching on Google's extra layer of security
Beginning last week, when you visit the 'My Activity' page (via 9to5Google (opens in new tab)), a small notification now appears, saying: "Safer with Google - You can add more security to My Activity by turning on extra verification." This bubble points to a new section under "Google protects your privacy and security."
In this new section, you have the option to Manage or Dismiss within the bubble or click Manage My Activity verification. From there, a separate pop-up window appears giving you the option to "Require extra verification," which bolts on the new password-protect function.
Turning this in will require anyone trying to access the My Activity section to click on a Verify button and put in the correct Google account password, before they're granted access to the treasure trove of user data.
According to Google, "if you turn on extra verification Google will make sure it’s really you before you can see or delete your full history on My Activity. This can help keep your history safer on shared devices."
An important caveat here is that the "setting only applies to My Activity," which is Google's way of basically saying that your history may still appear in other Google products. So, beware.
It's good to see Google finessing the smaller parts of its services, especially when it comes to security measures. The new feature, of course, more widely echoes its drive to improve user security as highlighted at Google I/O 2021, alongside news from earlier this month of mandatory two-factor authentication to firm up users' account security.
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