An exclusive report by the Associated Press has revealed that Google will still track users even if they turn Location History off, collecting minute by minute location data on their movements and the places they visit, including their home address.
AP noted that “by turning off Location History, you’re only stopping Google from adding your movements to its Timeline feature, which visually logs where you’ve been.” In the meantime, many of its services, including apps such as Google Maps, weather updates, and browser searches, still record your whereabouts.
The findings were confirmed by computer science researchers at Princeton at AP’s request.
Regarding Location History, Google’s support page states that a user can turn it off at any time. “With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored,” it reads.
“That isn’t true,” the AP report declares. Regardless of the Location History setting, some Google apps will still collect and store time-stamped location data without asking.
Google will record where you are every time you open its Maps app, daily weather updates will pinpoint your location, and some searches, even ones that have nothing to do with location, will still determine your exact latitude and longitude and save it to your Google account.
The issue affects some two billion Android users in addition to hundreds of millions of iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search.
Google seems to have purposefully made it difficult to turn off those covert location trackers. To do so, users would have to toggle off another setting hidden deep within settings called “Web and App Activity.”
Users can opt to delete the info, but doing so is a painstaking manual process in which users would have to delete each location marker individually. The other option would be to delete all their stored activity, akin to carpet bombing your entire profile.
Furthermore, while it is possible to see the stored location markers on myactivity.google.com, they’re typically scattered under several different headers, many of which are unrelated to location.
Tracking users’ location is paramount to Google’s drive to boost advertising revenue, which rose 20 percent last year to $95.4 billion.