Fans of Google Maps and Google Photos have a new way to put those tools to use now that the search giant has unveiled a feature called "Your Timeline." Available on both desktops and Android devices, Your Timeline enables people to view information about places they've visited in the recent or distant past, and even view photos they took at specific destinations at specific moments in time.
In rolling out the new feature, Google emphasized that users can control what location information they want to save and what they want to delete. All the details on Your Timeline are "private and visible only to you," according to Google.
Your Timeline is available to users who have opted in with Google to save their location histories. That feature lets people, for example, get reminders about where they last parked their cars or receive Google Now notifications about traffic accidents and other incidents along the routes they normally take to work.
Google has been gradually rolling out the Your Timeline feature, product manager Gerard Sanz said yesterday in a blog post. He described the tool as a way to "visualize your real-world routines, easily see the trips you've taken and get a glimpse of the places where you spend your time."
People who use Google Photos will also be able to use Your Timeline to view pictures they took on specific days "to help resurface your memories," Sanz added.
Your Timeline information is visible only to the user who enables the feature, and any location in a person's past travels can be edited or deleted according to personal preferences. Settings for Your Timeline and all of Google's other services can be managed via the new My Account feature the company launched last month.
Concerns about 'Always-on' Devices
Recognizing that services like Your Timeline are sure to raise concerns about privacy and security, Google has made several recent changes to how users can manage such applications. In addition to unveiling the My Account all-in-one-place hub for controlling Google settings in June, the company also announced that the next version of its Android mobile operating system -- set for release this fall -- will provide new support for managing app permissions and authorizing payments with fingerprints.
Google has also introduced a new Web site, privacy.google.com, with information about privacy-related and security-related tools and features for users.
According to a study earlier this year by the Pew Research Center, 93 percent of U.S. adults surveyed said it was important to have control over who can access information about their activities, although only 63 percent said it was important to be able to "go around in public without always being identified." Only 2 percent of respondents said they were "very confident" that records of their activities with search engine providers would remain private and secure.
The growing number of "always-on" electronic devices has also raised concerns among many privacy and security advocates. Earlier this month, for instance, the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center sent a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice asking those agencies to investigate whether such devices "violate federal wiretap laws that prohibit the unlawful interception of private communications."