Google Maps update to let you wipe out past searches and photos in one swoop

Google Maps is getting a privacy update that gives users new ways to control their information on the platform. 

First, the app will begin collecting your recent activity into one central location where you can view places you’ve been to in the past, the date you went there, and the amount of time you spent visiting. You’ll be even able to “delete your searches, directions… and shares” in the same hub.

Looking at Google’s announcement, it appears you can delete each entry one by one or the whole thing altogether. A window will pop up on the screen letting you know what’s going to be thrown out. The data packet will include photos, reviews, feedback reports, saved lists, and more you’ve made about a location.

Tapping the blue dot on Google Maps will now bring up a settings menu for the Timeline and Location History features where you can see if either tool has been turned on as well as if the app has access to your device’s location. Timeline, if you’re not super familiar with it, uses data obtained from Location History to keep a record of all the places you’ve been to.

The deletion tool and the blue dot menu will start rolling out to Android and iOS phones over the coming weeks.

Saving the timeline

There is another update; however, it won’t come out until sometime next year. The upcoming feature allows people to save their Timeline recording directly onto their device instead of leaving it up on Google’s cloud. You are, of course, able to delete a part or all of your information at once, if you don’t want to leave a trace behind. Conversely, users can back up their data to the company servers at any time. Everything is encrypted, so no one, not even Google, can take a peek.

Location History is getting a small tweak. Its auto-delete function “will be set to three months by default” rather than 18 months as is currently the case. After that time passes, all saved information will be deleted. If you want to go back to the longer period, you can adjust at any time. 

It’s unknown exactly when the Timeline changes will roll out to Android or iOS in 2024, although Google states you will receive an account notification when it eventually arrives.

Google Maps is full of neat little tricks that most people are unaware of. If you want to know what they are, check out TechRadar's list of the 10 things you didn't know Google Maps could do.

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Microsoft is bringing AI Bing and chat-powered searches to Windows 11

As expected, Microsoft is bringing the powerful and somewhat controversial AI-Enabled Bing to Windows 11, and putting it right inside your taskbar.

The update arrives today (February 28), but if you don't already have access to AI Bing (perhaps you're still on a waiting list) you won't see it.

For those that do have access, and are running at least Windows 11 version 22H2 on one of the best Windows PCs, they'll see the same OpenAI ChatGPT-enabled Bing chatbot at least a million people have been running for almost a month.

AI-Enabled Bing is designed to be like a search-engine copilot. You can use the new Bing in the standard search fashion, or in a more conversational mode, where you ask the chatbot anything, even a series of questions that stay in context and, when all goes well, help you to elicit better answers.

Now, that experience will live inside Windows 11's centered and quite popular search box in the taskbar.

While Microsoft, in the blog post announcing the update, points to some of the inspiring information discovery stories generated by the AI-powered Bing, the decision to introduce it on a platform used by millions of people is not without controversy.

Since its introduction at a surprise event a few weeks ago, users have pushed AI-enabled Bing to its limits. It's been accused of making stuff up, cheating at Tic-Tac-Toe, and basically going off the rails. Microsoft responded by putting some guardrails on the new technology, such as limiting interactions to five responses at a time.

None of that, though, has slowed Microsoft's expansion plans. Just last week, Microsoft unveiled the mobile version of AI-enabled Bing that includes voice interaction.

Microsoft is, in a way, hedging its bets here by introducing AI-enabled Bing to Windows 11 and not the much more widely-used Windows 10, which may be on well over one billion devices.

Even so, this is a significant expansion in AI-enabled Bing availability, and the roadmap is clear. This ChatGPT-powered search will eventually be a part of all Windows 11 installs, which means its learning could grow at an exponential rate. It might also mean that Microsoft encounters even more unforeseen chatbot challenges.

Windows 11 update with Phone Link for iOS

Windows 11 update with Phone Link for iOS (Image credit: Microsoft)

Along with the AI-enabled Bing Taskbar update, Microsoft is finally bringing Phone Link to iOS devices. 

For years, Microsoft has offered a direct Windows connection to the best Samsung phones through Phone Link, enabling browser hand-off, and the ability to send texts and other notifications from the phone to the Windows screen.

This Windows 11 update finally adds support for iPhones, allowing Windows users to view messages and notifications from their iPhones on their Windows 11 PCs and sync contacts. You'll even be able to manage phone calls through your PC. 

Unlike the Bing update, this one is still only available as a preview for Windows Insiders, a beta-release program that you can sign up for here. Just remember that running unreleased software comes with its share of risks, including data loss in the event of a system crash.

Windows 11 update with Quick Help

Windows 11 update with Quick Help (Image credit: Microsoft)

There are a bunch of other notable Windows 11 updates in today's full public release including:

• The ability to adjust Windows Studio Effects directly from the taskbar in Quick Settings.

• A slide-away taskbar when you use Windows 11 in tablet mode. A swipe up from the bottom of the screen will bring the taskbar back into view.

• The ability to open Quick Assist from the help menu to receive and deliver tech support. It will even let you switch between screen-share mode and full remote control of your or someone else's system (assuming you trust who you're working with).

• Finally, Microsoft is adding Screen Recording to its Snipping Tool, which has traditionally been used to capture screen images. We would love to see it add the ability to create GIFs from these screen caps, maybe in a future Windows 11 update.

As we mentioned earlier, this major Windows 11 update rolls out today (February 28) and while most of the updates will be available to everyone, the AI-enabled Bing will only show up if you're already part of the Bing preview program.

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WhatsApp doubles down on business searches within the app itself

In a big thrust into e-commerce and business, WhatsApp is rolling out a feature to let users search for nearby businesses, right within the app. The feature, when it becomes fully mainstream, will help the messaging platform to make an impact in one area where it has not made much headway – business & commerce segment. 

According to the ever reliable team at WABetainfo, WhatsApp had made available a nifty business directory to users in Sao Paulo a couple of months back. And the new search option for nearby businesses is an extension of that. “When you search for something within WhatsApp, there will be a new section called “Businesses Nearby”: when you select the category, the results of business accounts will be filtered based on your choice,” the report said.

Businesses will be happy with the putative feature as it will allow them to become more visible, directly from inside WhatsApp.

Business directory may come first

The new business search option within WA

The new business nearby search options within WA.  (Image credit: WABetainfo)

So, soon you can basically search for things like hotels, eateries, groceries or clothing, without leaving the app. This useful tool will be available to both iOS and Android users.  

This feature has been made available to some users in Sao Paulo but is not available yet for all. But it is likely that WhatsApp will first roll out the aforesaid business directory feature and then follow it up with the search tool. But it is something that would be worth the wait.

Once users are allowed to search for products and services nearby it will be only a matter of time before they can place orders for the same.

It is clear that the folks at WhatsApp are doubling down on business and commerce segment for future growth of the platform.  WhatsApp recently introduced a redesigned page for Business Info.

WhatsApp is also planning to redesign the page for Contact Info, in that it will have a search shortcut.

In-app shopping possibilities have grown across the social media platform’s apps. WhatsApp now also features shopping tools including product catalogs and shopping cart options for businesses to use.

Meta has announced new shopping and discovery tools, including Shops on WhatsApp.

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