Published: Tue, August 14, 2018
IT | By Lester Massey

Google watches your movements, like it or not

Google watches your movements, like it or not

Google's support page on the subject states: "You can turn off Location History at any time".

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.

To illustrate how much data Google collects, the AP was able to create a map of another Princeton researcher - Gunes Acar - as he traveled around with the Location History settings disabled on his Android smartphone. "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", he said. "That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have".

A Google spokesperson argued that the company is "perfectly clear" regarding its tracking policies and how to turn off services. After being contacted by the AP, Google says that in order to turn off these location markers, users must turn off another setting that does not reference location information.

But the search giant says, '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. Toggling this setting off does not affect Google's ability to pinpoint your location and draw from this data what the company deems necessary to give you more accurate information.

On an Android phone, toggling the same setting off lets you know that "places you go with your devices will stop being added to your Location History map".

A recent AP report suggests that Google can continue tracking users, even after they specifically request it to stop tailing them on Maps.

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


Turning the location setting on your phone off entirely is a good start, as is using cellular data instead of Wi-Fi whenever possible.

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

The Location feature that Google built-into the Android operating system and some of its applications power location-based services such as Google Maps and provide Google with information about a customer's whereabouts.

Mashable was also provided with this link on Google's location data policy.

Warnings when you're about to turn Location History off via Android and iPhone device settings are more hard to interpret.

Of course, there's no reason to assume that works either since Google makes no mention of turning off location when you "pause" web and app activity. "View Google settings on your Android device to change this setting".

See, there you go. Ad buyers can target ads to specific locations - say, a mile radius around a particular landmark - and typically have to pay more to reach this narrower audience. But I know some of you are, so hopefully this will help.

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