Google tracks your movements even if you’ve turned location history off

Joanna Estrada
August 13, 2018

While Google's statement may be technically correct, the issue is that so numerous company's services track your location, it's virtually impossible for the user to know just how many services they need to disable to regain their privacy. That's the frustrating news coming out of a new report that's slapping the search giant on the wrist for potentially obfuscating its user location-gathering methods.

The AP concedes that "for the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information", but its investigation - the findings of which were confirmed by researchers from Princeton - showed that Google services recorded user data even when Location History was disabled. It also becomes onerous when Google uses the location history you don't want to share to identify your location and deliver better advertising opportunities for companies that want to target people around a particular area.

Many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you've used privacy settings that say they will prevent it from doing so.

In one example, the AP found that Google will take "a snapshot" of your location when you open its Google Maps app, even if you have location tracking turned off.

Google a year ago faced scrutiny over a similar issue when reports emerged that the tech giant had been collecting Android users' location data using the addresses of nearby cellphone towers.

Google is watching where you are, even if you specifically instruct it not to record your location on iPhones and Android handsets.

Google tracks your movements even if you’ve turned location history off
Google is spying on your location (even if you ask it not to)

'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'. Leaving Web and App Activity on just prevents Google from adding location to your timeline, but it still stores it from other apps.

You can see these stored location markers on a page in your Google account at myactivity.google.com.

The AP learned of the issue from K. Shankari, a graduate researcher at UC Berkeley who studies the commuting patterns of volunteers in order to help urban planners. That popup states that, when active, the setting "saves the things you do on Google sites, apps, and services. and associated information, like location". Location data is not stored under Location History, it is instead stored under My Activity.

Since 2014, Google has let advertisers track the effectiveness of online ads at driving foot traffic, a feature that Google has said relies on user location histories. However, as the AP notes, this may affect how some services work, such as ride-hailing apps.

Interestingly, Google isn't skirting its tracking.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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