If you always had concerns that big brother was keeping tabs on you, a new report from the Associated Press (AP) offers some pretty solid validation, with it finding that Google tracks its users even if their location history has been turned off.
The organisation’s findings uncovered that Google has other means of tracking its users and collecting location data in spite of the location history function of Android devices being disabled.
This is done via other applications, such as Google Maps and Weather updates that the company is able to get location data. Added to this is Google searches, which too offer up search suggestions based on one’s location.
As the AP explains it, turning off location history only stops Google from adding a user’s movements to its timeline feature, which also creates a visualisation of where a user has been for the company.
While this latest bit of news may cause some to want to go off the grid, the AP did offer up some advice on how to stop Google’s tracking.
One needs to head into the settings on your device and searching for the Web and App activity tab. This is the setting that needs to be turned off as well in order to stop Google from pinging GPS-specific locations every time you use Maps or Search.
You can also go a step further by heading to myactivity.google.com, and click on any geo-stamped entries, then remove them.
In response to the article, Google says that it is completely transparent regarding the use of data in its location history.
“Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in, and users have the controls to edit, delete, or turn it off at any time. As the story notes, we make sure Location History users know that when they disable the product, we continue to use location to improve the Google experience when they do things like perform a Google search or use Google for driving directions,” explained a Google spokesperson in a statement to The Verge.
While Google’s claims about transparency regarding location history may in fact be true, we doubt many users are aware of the Web and App activity aspect of their devices.
Whether not disclosing such information is a violation of privacy laws remains to be seen, with companies like Facebook and Uber being penalised for similar infringements on user location.
With Google another in a long line of tech companies that are not fully forthcoming about how it gathers its users’ data, there are legitimate reasons for concern out there.
Whether people will stop using their Android phone as a result is probably unlikely.
[Image – CC0 Pixabay]