Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Turning Off Location History in Google Maps Does Not Prevent Google From Keeping a History of Your Location

Ryan Nakashima, AP:

For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a “timeline” that maps out your daily movements.

Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects — such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company will let you “pause” a setting called Location History.

This may be a minor quibble, but this is some pretty strange framing for an otherwise well-reported story. The privacy risks of giving your real-time location to a targeted advertising company are glossed over; the implication is that the reason you may wish to disable this feature is because you might be doing criminal activity.

Moving on:

Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. 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 .)

[…]

To stop Google from saving these location markers, the company says, users can turn off another setting, one that does not specifically reference location information. Called “Web and App Activity” and enabled by default, that setting stores a variety of information from Google apps and websites to your Google account.

These settings appear to only be available in Google’s My Account section; I couldn’t find the same settings in the Google Maps app on my iPhone. I did, however, find a setting, under “About, Terms & Privacy”, called “Location Data Collection”, which was switched on; I disabled it.

My account’s settings were the inverse of what I expected, too: “Web and App Activity” was turned off, but “Location History” was switched on; I turned it off, too.