According to a Harris Poll study conducted in partnership with Google, the average American has 27 online accounts that require passwords. Ideally, you should use a different password for each account, but come on, you're a human, not a robot, so that's never going to happen. In fact, 66 percent of Americans (almost two-thirds surveyed!) say they reuse the same passwords for their online banking, email, and social media networks. 

Sure, it makes sense to pick a password you can remember, and use it for everything since, well, again, you're not a robot. But what happens to your personal information when someone figures out that password? Considering that one-third of Americans use their pet's name as a password, it's not exactly inconceivable someone might figure it out. 

Or, worse, what happens when your information is included in a data breach--something not unheard of at this point? In fact, there's a pretty good chance that at least some of your personal information has been included in at least one of the dozen or so major breaches in the past few years.

I'm a big advocate of taking responsibility for protecting your own personal information, which is why it's good news that this morning, Google announced new tools to help you protect your passwords. Those tools include Google's password manager, which is built into Chrome, as well as your Google Account sign-in.

That password manager will now also flag passwords that are reused, and even let you know if one of the passwords you use has been compromised in a data breach. According to Google, it has already uncovered four billion passwords that have been compromised online. 

That study also showed that:

  • 43 percent of Americans have shared a password, including 23 percent who have given someone else their email password.
  • 22 percent use their own name as a password for at least one account.
  • 75 percent say they have trouble keeping track of all their passwords.
  • Less than half (45 percent) of Americans change their password, even after a data compromise or breach.

I have been on record many times criticizing Google for the way it handles your personal information, but I have to give the company credit for providing something that can actually help keep you more secure online. And since most of us don't follow password best practices, at least someone is trying to help us help ourselves.

By the way, and this is hardly an afterthought, but the password manager wasn't the only privacy-focused announcement from Google today. The company is now rolling out auto-delete to YouTube, meaning you can set your search history and personal information to be removed every three or eight months.

You can also now tell Google Assistant to "forget everything I said today," and it will delete any recorded interactions from the day, meaning those voice snippets will no longer be reviewed as a part of Google's quality checks.  

Finally, Google introduced the long-awaited Incognito Mode for Google Maps, which means that it will no longer remember places you search for or visit, and Google won't use any of your personal information to personalize your Maps experience. This, along with the fact that both iOS and Android have introduced increased control of how apps use your location information, is a real step in the right direction. 

Published on: Oct 2, 2019
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