Sci-tech

Google tracks movements - like it or not

Google tracks movements - like it or not”

To actually stop location services on your iPhone or Android device altogether, Google pointed AP to the "Web and App Activity" setting.

On Google's support page the company says that "With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored". When turned on, Google charts on a map all of the places you've visited and even offers recommendations based on where you go.

After disabling Location History, turn off "Web & App History" - but note that your experience using Google's services will be significantly different going forward.

You may not be able to fully prevent Google from knowing your location if you use its services, but there is an added step you can take for privacy.

Some examples of location-data logging the AP points to include Android's automatic weather updates that still track your general location, Google's search engine saving an exact location for each search query to your Google account, and even Google Maps itself snapshotting your location when you open the application. That's the two billion or so who use Android devices plus the hundreds of millions of iPhone users running Google map and search apps.

Computer-science researchers at Princeton recently confirmed these findings. He says that "storing location data in violation of a user's preferences is wrong".

'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'.

When paused, it will prevent activity on any device from being saved to your account.

Today, it was discovered that Google had the practice of maintaining the location history of users, despite them turning off location history in Google Maps and from their privacy dashboards. I spent a lot of time digging through my history today and came away fairly unconcerned about the data Google had collected through my search history. You can wholesale delete all items in date ranges or by service, but will end up taking out more than just location markers.

A researcher at UC Berkeley noticed something unusual when she had Location History disabled. Toggling this setting off does not affect Google's ability to pinpoint your location and draw from this data what the company deems necessary to give you more accurate information.

"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 spokesperson said in a statement to the AP. That's technically true. But it's still storing the location information in another repository called "My Activity".

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. "Keep in mind this changes how Google personalizes for you, however, so some people may want to leave this on for convenience".

If that bothers you, now you can opt out - for real. "More data for them presumably means more profit".

Warnings when you're about to turn Location History off via Android and iPhone device settings are more hard to interpret. It says it can measure how well a campaign drove foot traffic with data pulled from Google users' location histories. So, to erase your entire Google footprint, you'll want to go into the "My Activity" page where you can see everything you've done that touches Google services. That can limit the effectiveness of the Google Assistant, the company's digital concierge. Even if reports like the AP's generate fleeting moments of outrage, we've already traded away a healthy portion of our identities and habits in order to be able to both use Google Maps and be served endless programmatic ads. But I know some of you are, so hopefully this will help.



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