- Google tracks users’ locations even if they turn the feature off in privacy settings.
- Google has a well-documented history of ignoring such privacy settings.
- Here’s how you can delete it and possibly prevent it from happening in the future.
Google tracks its users’ locations, accurate to the square foot, no matter what their privacy settings are — raising privacy, ethical and legal concerns.
An investigation by The Associated Press reveals that many Google applications on Android and iPhone devices still track users’ location even when those features are turned off. Computer scientists at Princeton University confirmed the findings, The AP reported Monday.
The privacy invasion carries several implications about the company’s inaccurate support page, which states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”
“That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking,” The AP reported.
Even non-location related activities result in Google recording users’ locations, such as searches for “chocolate chip cookies,” The AP lists as one example.
“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,” said Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau, Jonathan Mayer. “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”
Google has a well-documented history of tracking its users when they explicitly ask the tech giant not to, dating back several years.
The tech titan developed a way to advance its tailored ads for users by tracking their purchases inside stores and matching them to the ads users see online, The Daily Caller reported in 2014.
Google and its advertisers are able to track whether or not users clicked on an ad and bought it inside a store, giving them a competitive advantage over other online ad firms by making its data more accurate than competitors who can only track if they’ve clicked on the ad.
TheDC’s co-founder and Fox News host Tucker Carlson in February exposed some of Google’s most invasive application of tracking its users. (RELATED: Google Claims Over A Third Of All Time Usage On The Internet)
Phones were able to track Fox News’s Brett Larson when he traveled around Washington, D.C., with two phones in his pocket. One phone was on airplane mode and neither had a SIM card and neither were connected to WiFi, TheDC reported Feb. 7.
The phones were both able to log the time he got out of the car, accurate to the second. That information is stored on the phones and likely sent to Google or any apps when the phone reconnects to the WiFi or a SIM card is placed in the phone.
Another “Tucker Carlson Tonight” report on big tech’s influence entering homes beyond computers reveals how Google aims to input itself in raising children.
“The same patent also discusses how the smart home could coach families on ‘areas of improvement.’ For example, if a family doesn’t spend enough time together, eating together, in Google’s estimation, Google might scold them and suggest that they set a goal of eating more often together. That is Google’s description, not ours,” Carlson said Feb. 6.
Google claimed in a statement to The AP that it is being honest and upfront about tracking its users.
“There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services,” a Google spokesman said. “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.”
How to really delete it
Depending on how much data is there, it can be a long, painstaking process to delete the location history on a phone, if a user wants to individually delete specific records. Otherwise, a user can delete it wholesale.
Additionally, deleting the location history can impact the functionality of Google services, such as Google Home.
To prevent future recordings, go to myactivity.google.com/myactivity; log into your Google account; on the left side of the screen, click “Activity controls;” turn off both “Web & App Activity” and “Location History.”
Google support lists the following steps to delete a location history using a website:
“You can delete individual locations, locations by date, or your whole location history on the Location History website.
- Go to maps.google.com/locationhistory. You might need to sign in.
- Pick how to delete your Location History:
- By date:
To the right of the date you want, click Delete .
- By individual location:
Pick a location from the list or map. Click More Remove stop from day Remove.
- Entire history:
Click Settings Delete all Location history.”
- By date:
For an extensive list of how to delete on specific devices, such as iPhones or Android, The AP reported individual methods to delete location history.
Cellphone providers will always have a general idea of where their users are, as they have to connect to cell towers nearby. Additionally, simply connecting to the internet automatically records a unique IP address for users’ devices, which includes where the device is when it logged on (virtual private networks, which redirect users’ IP address to a different location, can get around this, but some websites can detect it and prevent users from accessing their website).
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