Published: Tue, August 14, 2018
Industry | By Terrell Bush

Google Stores Your Location Data Even If Location History is Turned Off

Google Stores Your Location Data Even If Location History is Turned Off

Even if you have taken a few of the more obvious steps to reduce Google's ability to track your location while you're using your smartphone, it looks like it may not be enough to keep the company from trying to keep tabs on you.

To illustrate the location data still collected when a user's Location History is paused but the "Web & App Activity" setting is still on, AP displayed a map of locations visited by a Princeton postdoctoral researcher and Android user over a several-day period based on data that was still saved to his Google account.

This dubious privacy infringement affects some two billion Android users worldwide, in addition to hundreds of millions of iOS users who rely on Google Maps or its search engine.

That isn't true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.

The report indicates that there are still some Google apps that will continue to track your location, simply due to the way they function.

Google representatives told the AP this location tracking can be disabled completely by turning off the "Web & App Activity" feature; find that setting here. "And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like 'chocolate chip cookies, ' or 'kids science kits, ' pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude - accurate to the square foot - and save it to your Google account". Only when you turn this off will Google's snooping ways be put to an end - turn off Location History alone and all the search engine giant will do is stop adding your movements to its "timeline".

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Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to. If you turn Location History off, you will receive a message saying "None of your Google apps will be able to store location data in Location History".

In that web and app activity pop-up: "If your Android usage & diagnostics setting is turned on, your device will still share information with Google, like battery level, how often you use your device and apps, and system errors".

Google says tracking users' locations helps it to target geographically-specific ads. And if you think you're too canny to have been affected, you're probably wrong; Google creates a snapshot of your location when you so much as open Maps.

There would appear to be a privacy concern there, considering some people might not like to know that their every movement is being tracked by a big tech company. "They build advertising information out of data", he said. "More data for them presumably means more profit".

As Google points out, this pervasive data collection is precisely what "improves" "user experience", making searching, maps, and recommendations more efficient. Check out our overview of Google's Activity Controls here. But it also prevents the company from storing search information, which limits Google Assistant's effectiveness. "To me, it's something people should know", he said.

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