You would think that telling Google that you didn’t want your location be tracked by disabling an option called “Location History” would stop the internet giant from errr.. storing data about your location.
Turns out, as AP News reports, that we were wrong to think that:
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 last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company lets you “pause” a setting called Location History.
Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. Google’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.
That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. (It’s possible, although laborious, to delete it.)
For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are.
To stop Google from storing your location, you need to turn off an additional setting. A setting that - rather unhelpfully - doesn’t mention location data.
Visit your Google activity controls in a browser. There you will find a half-a-dozen settings that allow you to toggle Google’s collection of data about you.
Amongst them is the aforementioned “Location History”, which in my case is disabled:
But you also need to disable “Web & App Activity” (which is, of course, enabled by default).
There is no mention that the setting will affect the collection of location data, instead you’re led to believe that it’s related to search engine results:
Pausing Web & App Activity may limit or disable more personalized experiences across Google services. For example, you may stop seeing more relevant search results or recommendations about places you care about.
A dialog box will appear asking you if you’re really sure you want to pause the “Web & App Activity” data collection:
It seems pretty sneaky to me that Google continues to store location data, unless you both disable “Location history” and “Web & App Activity”.
For more details on how to prevent future location tracking, and delete past location markers that Google has collected from you, check out this article from AP News.