It’s not enough to turn off your Location History in your account settings to stop Google from tracking your every move. A recent Associated Press investigation showed they will still track your location when you open Google Maps, get automatic weather updates, or search for things in your browser. As a part of the investigation, after travelling for several days, Princeton privacy researcher, Gunes Acar, delved into the saved data on his Google account. Despite his “Location History” being off, results showed Google collected his location data. Google’s support page states, “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored,” which simply isn’t true. Looking for a way to turn location tracking off completely?
To actually turn off location tracking you have to:
- Sign in to your Google account on a browser on iOS or your desktop, or through the Android settings menu.
- In the browser, access your account settings by finding Google Account in the dropdown in the upper right-hand corner
- Go to Personal Info & Privacy
- Choose Go to My Activity, then in the left-hand nav, click Activity Controls
- Once there you’ll see the setting called Web & App Activity. If you have an Android, go from Google settings to Google Account, then tap on Data & Personalization. You’ll find Web & App Activity there.
- To stop that tracking, toggle the blue Web & App Activity slider to off.
On top of the fact Google doesn’t make this the easiest process, it also blatantly avoids explaining to the user that Web & App Activity has anything to do with location tracking. Google makes it a three-step process before the user has access to any sort of real facts. You have to first tap Learn more, then scroll to What’s saved as Web & App Activity, and tap again on Info about your searches & more until you finally see the word location.
For this reason, transparency is the name of the game. In a blog post that first alerted the Associated Press to the problem, UC Berkeley graduate researcher K. Shankari expresses, “Tracking people without their consent and without proper controls in place is creepy and wrong.” It’s important that technology companies make a better effort to be clear, upfront and open with their users and user data.
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