Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

Google tracks your location even if you turn off Location History

More data more profit’ Google tracks your location even when you ask it not to says report Mike Blake Reuters
Emmett Howard | 14 August, 2018, 00:42

The main issue that comes out of the new revelation is that most Android users are probably unaware that location information may be saved to their account if they use Google apps or services on the device but have location turned off.

The Associated Press quotes Google's support pages as saying: "You can turn off Location History at any time.

Turning off location history just appears to remove your location from the Google Maps Timeline feature, which shows you where you've been in Google's data.

File this under "shouldn't surprise anyone", but the Associated Press has released the findings of an investigation that studied the way Google services on both Android devices and iPhones handle your location data.

General searches that aren't location specific can also use your location and save it to your Google account.

Jonathan Mayer, the former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission's enforcement bureau and a current computer scientist at Princeton, told the AP he believes Google is being dishonest. "That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have".

Google says it is being perfectly clear.

In a statement to the AP, Google explained, "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".

As stated above, disabling these two settings will keep Google out of most of your locations - but it may not stop the company entirely, especially for Android users.

To find out if you're tracked by Google, you can go to your Google Maps Timeline.

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Local data is quite valuable to Google's advertising efforts and one of the main reasons why the company pushes location-tracking on its devices and in its services.

Computer-science researchers at Princeton recently confirmed these findings.

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

To completely disable location tracking, users must turn off Location History and Web & App Activity - something not made abundantly clear to the typical user.

"I am not opposed to background location tracking in principle", she said.

Google is morphing into the helicopter parent we'd always feared it would; its location tracking persists even when users have explicitly told it not to, discovers AP News. I, for example, frequent Google Maps, and had to sanction its usage of my location for navigation purposes.

Warnings when you're about to turn Location History off via Android and iPhone device settings are more hard to interpret. On an iPhone you'll be warned that "none of your Google apps will be able to store location data in Location History".

The iPhone text is technically true if potentially misleading.

Google also says location records stored in My Activity are used to target ads. That can limit the effectiveness of the Google Assistant, the company's digital concierge.

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