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Google beefs up user privacy controls for Assistant, YouTube

You can now tell Google Assistant to delete your activity history.

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Google wants you to be able to keep your Google Assistant history private.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Google on Wednesday announced enhancements to some of its products that give you more control over how long your activity history is saved, including adding the ability to use your voice to manage your Google Assistant data. The updates come amid growing public scrutiny of various tech giants' use and handling of your personal data.

The update to Google Assistant will allow you to use voice commands to delete your Assistant activity history from your Google account by saying things like "Hey Google, delete the last thing I said to you," or "Delete everything I said to you last week." It will also share information about how Google protects your data when you ask about how data is kept private.

"You won't need to turn on any of these features -- they will work automatically when you ask the Assistant for help," Eric Miraglia, director of the product management, privacy and data protection office, said in blog post. The update will roll out in English next week and for all other languages next month, Google said.

Google is among the many tech giants that has taken hits on privacy concerns. Along with Facebook and Amazon, Google has faced intensified scrutiny from US lawmakers and regulators and been slapped with fines from both the European Union's data privacy laws and the Federal Trade Commission.

The privacy issues extend over to voice assistants. For voice assistants to improve, companies like Google, Apple and Amazon have been sending a small percentage of recordings for humans to listen to and correct the AI on its mistakes. But the tech giants were not transparent about this process, leading to privacy concerns about the voice assistants listening to intimate conversations.

A popular Chrome privacy control feature for the past decade has been Incognito mode, which hides a user's web activity when it's turned on. The feature was added to YouTube earlier this year and has now arrived for Maps.

Announced earlier this year, the feature means that places you've searched for or gotten directions to won't be saved to their Google account. It will start rolling out on Android devices later this month, with iOS compatibility "coming soon," Google said.

Another privacy feature that's getting wider play is autodelete, which lets you automatically erase the history of web sites you've visited and topics you've browsed. Google is now extending this feature to YouTube, allowing you to designate a period of time your data is kept before it's automatically deleted.

Google also want to help you help yourself when it comes to security, offering tips on strengthening your passwords.