Google Can Track Users Even When Their Location History is Disabled

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Associated Press reported that a number of Google services on both Android and iPhone keep users’ location data even if their “Location History” is disabled.

After users disable the “Location History” from the privacy settings of Google applications, they should prevent Google from storing their location data.

However, the situation is completely different. The AP experts found that even when the users’ Location History is turned off, some Google applications automatically store “time-stamped location data” without any authorization.

Google’s support page on the subject 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. (It’s possible, although laborious, to delete it.)” the AP post states.

“For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are.”

“And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude—accurate to the square foot—and save it to your Google account.”

Associated Press has used location data from an Android smartphone with ‘Location History’ disabled to create a map of the movements of the researcher Gunes Acar.

The data plotted on the map includes records of Dr. Acar’s train commute on two trips to New York and visits to the High Line park, Chelsea Market, Hell’s Kitchen, Central Park and Harlem other markers on the map, as well as Acar’s home address.

“The privacy issue affects some two billion users of devices that run Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search.” the AP says.

Google replied to the AP’s study with the following statement:

“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. 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.”

Users can stop Google from collecting their location by turning off the “Web and App Activity” setting, however, Google will keep storing the location markers.

In any case, what users should do is go to their web browser, then to myactivity.google.com, select “Activity Controls” and turn off the “Web & App Activity” and “Location History” features”.

For Android Devices:
Go to the “Security & location” setting, select “Privacy”, and tap “Location” and toggle it off.

For iOS Devices:
Google Maps users can access Settings → Privacy Location Services and change their location setting to ‘While Using’ the application.

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Nelly Vladimirova
Nelly Vladimirova has been working as a journalist since 1998 with a main focus on Finance, Economics, and IT. In 2004 she graduated the University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, as a Bachelor in English Philology and Master in Linguistics and Translation. Later, Nelly received a postgraduate certificate in Business Management from Scott's College, UK. Presently, she is presenting the latest news related to computer security at www.virusguides.com.

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