When you turn off Google Location History with the thoughts of fortifying your privacy settings or using less of your data, Google can still track where you’re going, according to a new report.
The Associated Press published an investigation and discovered that many of Google’s popular services are still able to track and store your location history even if you’ve gone into your personal settings and deactivated your Google Location History to let Google know you’re not interested in your data being stored.
For an app such as Google Maps, Google will ask for your permission to have access to your location data when you use the service for navigating. Agreeing with Google for this, you’re allowing the service to record your location history over time. Google can then display your location history for you in a timeline and map out where you’ve been.
Managing your Google Location History settings
According to Google, you can manage or delete your Location History Settings on Android or iPhone devices. According to the Google support page, you can Turn Location History on or off or choose to delete the location data altogether.
While Google provides explicit instructions on how to manage your location history settings, The Associated Press investigation has determined that Google still tracks and retains some of your Location History.
According to the investigation, researchers determined that Google still saves a snapshot of your location when you open Google Maps. And when you use an Android device to display automatic weather updates, you’re being tracked by the Google service because it is able to let you know what the weather is based on your location.
Researchers consider this a “privacy issue” because most users think they are protecting their own privacy when they disable or delete Google Location History.
“If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off, Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer science researcher said to The Associated Press. “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”
Google, however, released a statement to The Associated Press claiming that it is being transparent with users and how the company collects data from location-based services, explaining how it uses Location History and data.
“There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including Location History, Web & App Activity, and through device-level Location Services,” a Google spokesperson told The Associated Press in a statement. “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.”
How to completely stop Google from tracking you
According to The Associated Press, if you want to completely stop the company from saving your information, Google says you must access the Web and App Activity setting on your Android or iPhone device. The setting is switched on by default, but if you pause the setting, it will prevent activity on your Android or iPhone device from being stored by Google.
The setting sounds a bit misleading, because an average user may not associate the term Web and App Activity as something related to your location. Most users will comb through their settings and see the “Location History” setting and think they’ve prevented Google from tracking their activity.
If you pause the Web and App Activity setting, it will prevent activity on your Android or iPhone device from being stored. When switched to on, you’re letting Google know you’re aware that your Google apps data such as location are being saved.
Turn off Google Web and App Activity setting
First, make sure you’re signed into Google account on a web browser or through your Android settings menu.
On a web browser, you can visit Google.com and click your profile icon at the top right. From there click Google Account. Once there, you’ll see several options to manage and secure your Google Account. Click Personal Info & privacy. Click My Activity. On the left-hand side of the screen click Activity Controls. Within this page, you’ll find a bunch of different settings you can manage. Find Web & App Activity and you can toggle it off if you don’t want to pause Google tracking.