How to Stop Google from Tracking Your Location

How to Stop Google from Tracking Your Location

Google continues to store users' location data even on phones that have privacy settings set to prevent that kind of tracking, according to an Associated Press report released Monday.

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.

On a Google support page for managing your Location History, the company says "You can turn off Location History at any time".

Google's own instructions say, 'You can turn off Location History at any time.

Toggling the button to the right of "Web & App Activity" to off will pause the location services Google receives from its other apps and services like Google Maps and Google Search.

When using a service like Google Maps, Google will ask you to permit access to your iPhone or Android phone's location data.

But a new Associated Press investigation showed how that is not really the case.

Why it matters: It is not surprising that Google can and does track Android and iOS users that use its apps such as Maps or Chrome.

Jonathan Mayer from Princeton looked into the matter and confirmed the AP's findings. "It's enabled by default and called 'Web and App Activity".

"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".

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

"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".

Such data can be very private indeed - with location history normally stored as a "timeline" showing where a user goes, minute by minute. It does not stop Google's collection of other location markers.

Getting rid of those location markers, AP reported, is "a painstaking process".

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.

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. For instance, the iPhone notification "None of your Google apps will be able to store location data in Location History" that appears when Location History is turned off is technically correct.

Peter Lenz, a senior geospatial analyst at advertising technology company Dstillery said that Google's obsession with tracking user locations is all to do with advertising revenue.

As for Shankari, she's most indignant about the opacity of the whole system; "I am not opposed to background location tracking in principle", she clarified.

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.

Google also says location records stored in My Activity are used to target ads. Users need to point their browsers to Google's Activity Controls web page.

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