Google clarifies Location History help pages following tracking backlash

Doris Richards
August 18, 2018

Since we are the product that Google sells, and our location data is valuable to advertisers, the company naturally made opting out of location services more complicated than it needs to be.

Worldwide, this privacy breach affects over 2 billion Android and iPhone devices that run Google services such as the Google search-engine, Google Maps or Android's Google operating system.

Google hasn't changed its location-tracking practice in that regard.

"We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers".

Even random Google searches pinpoint a user's specific location down to the square foot, according to the AP investigation. And, it's also worth noting that Google pulls the same stunt with this option as it does with Location History: turning off web and app activity doesn't actually turn off all web and app activity. A popup appears that reads "some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps". Some apps continue to collect your location information.

Previously, the page stated: "With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored".

K. Shankari, a UC Berkeley graduate researcher whose findings initially alerted the AP to the issue, said Thursday the change was a "good step forward", but added "they can make it better". Users can go to their Google account on their web browser and click on "Activity Controls". Turning that setting off that would in fact stop recording location data. Google is effectively saying that there's no way for a user to provide consent when it comes to their privacy.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has not, as of yet, commented on any intention to investigate this matter. "When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it's off for all devices associated with that Google Account".

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 past year to find devices near a murder scene.

Opening the Google Maps app takes a snapshot of users' locations and daily weather updates, like those used by Android phones, approximate the devices current location.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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