All you need to know about Google location tracking
Updated with Google’s answers
Here’s what the support page tells,
This setting does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device. Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps. When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it’s off for all devices associated with that Google Account.
[Original article: 15/8/2018]
Google has a wide presence in mobile market. Their Android OS is undoubtedly present on all handsets without Apple logo. Also their apps and services are wildly popular everywhere on Android and iOS. If you use Android, Google services are deeply baked into platform. But it also makes it easier for them for location tracking and other information.
And that’s what Google has been doing. You have an option to turn off your location when you don’t want apps to use location services. But they still record your movements even when you tell them not to.
How Google tracks you
The Mountain View giant asks you for location permission in their apps and other services. If you agree to share your location, the company will track your location and show it up in history with daily movements.
This poses a privacy concern because this data has been used by police to track location of suspects. Google has a setting in their Account settings that lets you pause your location history if you want. But this isn’t completely true. According to an investigation by Associated Press, the Mountain View giant still tracks your movements on Android and iOS handsets.
Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP’s request. Google has a support page which tells that “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.” Even when your location history is paused, Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.
The instant you open Google Maps app, the app start tracking your location. Weather updates rough show exactly where you are. Also things that don’t require location info such as searching for recipes simply point to your location and the services save it to your account.
According to Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau,
Storing location data in violation of a user’s preferences is wrong. If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off. That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.
A researcher from Mayer’s lab confirmed the AP’s findings on multiple Android devices; the AP conducted its own tests on several iPhones that found the same behavior.
But According to Google, things are perfectly clear.
“There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to the AP. “We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time.”
In order to stop Google from storing your location to your account, the company said that users just need to disable “Web & App Activity”.
When you disable “Web & App Activity”, it prevents Google to get your personal information. This results in their suggestions and ads less effective.
How to stop Google from tracking you.
Google may have mistaken or may be not. There is a privacy concern just because the company shifted their controls (in Web & App Activity) due to which they can still track you even when disable your location. To completely stop Google from tracking you, here are following steps
On any device,
- Go to https://myactivity.google.com. Login to your account if prompted.
- On the upper left dropdown menu, go to Activity Controls.
- Turn off both “Web & App Activity” and Location History.
- Go to Settings > Security and Location.
- Go to Privacy section and tap on Location.
- From there you can turn of location for entire device.
- You can use App-level permissions to turn off access to individual apps.
- Go to Settings > Privacy > Location services.
- From there you can toggle option for Google Maps.
Delete previous location history and other activity
Head over to https://myactivity.google.com and go to “Delete Activity by” section. From there you can delete activity and it will be removed from their servers. To know more about the company policies on how they handle your data, go here.
You can use DuckDuckGo search engine if you don’t want tracking behind you. And you can choose to disable cookies in your browser.