The popularity of Google search and Google Maps has given the company a lot of power over their users. And unfortunately, they are able to track their users on a massive scale on a minute-by-minute basis every day. Most consumers believe that it’s best to pause location services to avoid being tracked this way. However, an AP investigation revealed that Google still manages to gather sensitive location data in other ways.
Most people first give Google permission to track their location when they install Google Maps to their phone. The app requires location access, which then jumpstarts a “timeline” of your movements. And when someone pauses location services, under the “Location History” option, it decreases the data collection but doesn’t stop it. For example, launching the Maps app sends location data to Google that is recorded and stored. And every time the weather app updates on Android phones, location data is transmitted, detailed U.S. News.
And if you think that avoiding Google Maps will be effective, then you’re wrong. Because every time that you search for anything on Google, the company can also see your location. The information is again recorded in your account.
If you’re shocked to hear this and want to stop Google from gathering any more information about your location, then you’ll need to change a setting in the “Web and App Activity” of your profile.
The “Web and App Activity” option, when turned off, supposedly prevents Google from storing any of your location information. But just to be clear, you’ll also want to turn off your “Location History” too.
This sort of sneaky data collection is “wrong,” believes Princeton computer scientist Jonathan Mayer. He also worked as a chief technologist for the FCC’s enforcement bureau. This is what he had to say about the “Location History” settings.
“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… That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”
And frustratingly, anyone who wants to delete the location data that’s stored by Google will find that it’s a long and nearly impossible task. That’s because each of the data points needs to be deleted individually. Another option is to just wipe everything in your profile.
So why is Google collecting all of this data? Some people believe it’s to give them the insights they need in order to sell advertisement. Peter Lenz, geospatial analyst at Dstillery, said that “They build advertising information out of data… More data for them presumably means more profit.”