Google Tracks Users' Movements With Location History Turned Off

Google tracks your movements even if you’ve turned location history off

Google has admitted that its option to "pause" the gathering of your location data doesn't apply to its Maps and Search apps - which will continue to track you even when you specifically choose to halt such monitoring.

Peter Lenz, a senior geospatial analyst at advertising technology company Dstillery said that Google's obsession with tracking user locations is all to do with advertising revenue.

Despite you deny permission for accessing your location, Google knows where you are going and it records your movements. You can not turn off Google Play services, which supplies your location to other apps if you leave that service on. The Weather app on Android phones also grabs your location to roughly pinpoint where you are.

In the Safari web browser, consider using a search engine other than Google.

'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'.

Google does offer a less misleading description of how its location storing works but only in a popup window if you select to "pause" "Location History" on your Google account web page, where it states that some location data may still be saved as part of your activity on other Google apps. If allowed, Google apps will track your movements and save them to your account under your Location History. Location data is not stored under Location History, it is instead stored under My Activity. "View Google settings on your Android device to change this setting".

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But it gets even weirder than that: because if you expect that turning off "Web and App Activity" would actually stop web and app activity in the same way turning off location history would turn off location data - then you've ended up in the wrong place again.

"So how did Google Maps know where I was?" she asked in a blog post. But its attempts to do so revealed Google's tracking.

As for Shankari, she's most indignant about the opacity of the whole system; "I am not opposed to background location tracking in principle", she clarified.

See, there you go. Tap "Location." You can toggle it off for the entire device. On Android, the popup explains that "places you go with your devices will stop being added to your Location History map". For instance, the iPhone notification "None of your Google apps will be able to store location data in Location History" that appears when Location History is turned off is technically correct. This could include restaurant recommendations from your commute populating the Google Maps app's Explore section.

This issue about location tracking is a significant one, of course, since it affects a few billion people. Ad buyers can target ads to specific locations - say, a mile radius around a particular landmark - and typically have to pay more to reach this narrower audience. That can limit the effectiveness of the Google Assistant, the company's digital concierge.

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