Google Is Tracking Your Location-Even Without Your Permission, Report Says

Angelica Greene
August 14, 2018

An investigation carried out by the Associated Press has found that Google is in fact storing Android and iPhone users' location data even when they have chosen privacy settings to prevent the company from doing so. "With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored", according to the company's privacy page.

Google's location tracking has always been a controversial subject.

Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.

Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app.

When using a service like Google Maps, Google will ask you to permit access to your iPhone or Android phone's location data.

Google's claim that it allows users to completely turn off all location tracking is completely false, according to research conducted by the Associated Press. Something like the weather widget that's the default on all Pixel phones would be enough to give Google a pretty good map of your travels when Web & App Activity is turned on.

When paused, it will prevent activity on any device from being saved to your account.

Disabling Google's Location History doesn't stop Google from tracking your location on Android and iOS devices. It does not stop Google's collection of other location markers. You can delete all of the spots but you have to do it individually or delete all at once. While the Location History feature may not collect your location, other Google services can.

But even if you decide to "opt out" of storing this information, Google still saves information on your location.

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To stop Google from saving these location markers, the company says, users can turn off another setting, one that does not specifically reference location information. It'd be nice if the "Web & App Activity" feature also made it clear that it stopped location tracking efforts, too.

And if you want to turn off web and app activity, you need to go to Google settings - although where precisely it's not clear.

Google, for its part, noted in a statement to the AP that it has several different ways to track and use a user's location to "improve people's experience".

The search-engine giant, owned by Alphabet Inc., derives significant revenue through advertising, which is bolstered by user-generated data providing information useful to advertisers such as metrics on foot traffic.

Now, more than ever, we need to be wary about what data of ours is shared, and when, and to whom.

As for Shankari, she's most indignant about the opacity of the whole system; "I am not opposed to background location tracking in principle", she clarified.

Visit https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity, then select the Activity controls option on the sidebar.

On Android: Under the main settings icon click on "Security & location". That can limit the effectiveness of the Google Assistant, the company's digital concierge. That also means that Maps won't know where you are when you look for directions in a browser.

Other reports by GizPress

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