The report, confirmed by computer science researchers at Princeton, found a privacy issue with Google's Location History setting affecting two billion Android devices and hundreds of millions of iOS devices where consumers rely on Google Maps or search apps. When logged into your Google account, the Location History setting allows you to toggle an option that records movements.
If you give it permission to, Google Maps will track you everywhere you go.
Today, it was discovered that Google had the practice of maintaining the location history of users, despite them turning off location history in Google Maps and from their privacy dashboards.
"Google offers additional information in a popup that appears if you re-activate the "Web & App Activity" setting - an uncommon action for many users, since this setting is on by default". The company states on its support page, that you can turn off Location History "at any time" and that, with the setting turned off, "the places you go are no longer stored". Whether Location History, a newish feature on the scale of Google as a company but old on the scale of smartphones that we carry everywhere we go, is on or off was never going to materially change that. But that's not the case.
It seems that even with Location History put on pause, a number of Google apps still automatically store your location data without asking. This is certainly something to be aware of, especially if you previously turned off Location History thinking it would prevent your location tracking. It is, however, stored in a section of your account called My Activity.
In addition to turning off Location History here, turning off Web and App Activity will help too. And if you think you're too canny to have been affected, you're probably wrong; Google creates a snapshot of your location when you so much as open Maps.
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"Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in, and users have the controls to edit, delete, or turn it off at any time".
Getting rid of those location markers, AP reported, is "a painstaking process".
"They build advertising information out of data", said Peter Lenz, the senior geospatial analyst at Dstillery, a rival advertising technology company.
"I am not opposed to background location tracking in principle", she said.
Now, more than ever, we need to be wary about what data of ours is shared, and when, and to whom. "It just really bothers me that it is not explicitly stated". In particular, neither the Google Assistant, a digital concierge, nor the Google Home smart speaker will be particularly useful.
Google is accused of being misleading and disingenuous with the information it provides Android and iPhone users. That also means that Maps won't know where you are when you look for directions in a browser.