It uses the information for its recommendation engine that suggests videos to users based on past activity.
YouTube users had two options up until now to deal with the accumulation of data: delete the data manually regularly or pause the data collecting.
Google announced recently that it would integrate new functionality that would allow users to have the activity history deleted automatically. The new functionality is now available but it is likely that most YouTube users don't know anything about it.
The main reason for that is that Google did not implement the functionality on the YouTube website but on the company's My Activity website instead. If you check the options on YouTube, you will get the old "pause" or "clear manually" options only. If you check My Activity, you get the option to configure automatic processes to delete the history and to configure the watch history better as well.
Here is how that is done:
- Visit the My Activity website on the Google website. Either click on the link in the previous sentence to go there or open the main Google website, click on your profile icon and select Google Account > Manage your data & personalisation > YouTube History > Manage Activity (under YouTube History).
The page lists two main options to configure the history on YouTube. The left widget displays the current state of history recording, e.g. paused, and options to manage the settings.
A click on change setting displays options to enable the watch history or search history exclusively on YouTube. Note that this will enable history recording again on the site.
The second widget controls an automated process that will delete the history based on your preferences. The default is set to "keeping activity until you delete it manually". Click on "choose to delete automatically" to configure auto-delete for the YouTube history.
Only two time intervals are provided: 3 months or 18 months. If you select one interval, Google will delete information about watched videos or searches automatically based on the selected interval.
Google notes that recommendations get better the longer the history is kept.
YouTube uses your history to remind you what you've watched, avoid recommending already watched videos, and improve your recommendations. These benefits improve the longer you keep your history.
If you select three months, Google will delete any activity that is older than three months. The configuration page lacks any other options; there is no option to set a custom interval, which would be highly desirable. I would imagine if enough users were to highlight this shortcominy they may offer the option at some point in the future.
There is no need to configure the automatic deletion of the history if you paused it already and deleted the past history.
The new automatic deletion setting is too rigid to be particularly useful. Three and eighteen months may work for some users but many would probably prefer different intervals or at the very least a custom option.
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