Pausing ‘Location history’ doesn’t stop Google tracking your location. Here’s how to stop it

Graham Cluley

Pausing Google 'Location history' doesn't stop your location data from being collected and stored

Pausing Google 'Location history' doesn't stop your location data from being collected and stored

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:

Location history

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:

Pause confirm

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.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

9 Replies to “Pausing ‘Location history’ doesn’t stop Google tracking your location. Here’s how to stop it”

  1. Now that is sneaky, Google! I know that setting affects history.google.com, but they really shouldn't be hiding that it is also responsible for location storing…

    I have both settings enabled on mine but this does seem sketchy that they would do this.

  2. I have one better than all of this.

    I have an IPad Mini 2 WiFi Only model

    It tracks me everywhere I go.

    Yes WiFi only model is able to track me in the middle of no where with no existence of WiFi. WiFi is turned off and I am in the woods and yep the blue dot on google maps follows me. Wtf.

  3. Blah blah blah, crapple and faceache are no better and this is just splitting hairs. Move along, nothing to see here.

  4. Not sure but someone or numerous someone's taken over my phone and even locked me out
    I believe google sales or allows certificates and licenses to do this. I don't sign in to anything and my phone continually prompts to updaye software. They suck because if it hasnt happened to you people think your crazy. Very costly, replaced several phones and $200 at geek squad and still had issues.

  5. "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."

    It's always a trade off between privacy and helping law enforcement. If our relatives were victims of crime I sure would want the police to find the correct people and arrest them
    I've upper-cased the relevant bits.
    Suspects who they then have to prove through the justice system are guilty and warrants which they would need a judge to sign.
    All for privacy but it's becoming and us and them argument between freedom activists and governments.
    Balance needed I think?

  6. Hello Graham,

    Great article>>>>>>the news is everywhere now.

    My question to you is>>>>you left FA K EBOOK, is GOOGLIE next?

    Regards,

    Alfonso

  7. The tracking helps in Maps and Navigation. Where's the loss? Also, how many people are murder suspects and want to hide a trail. Moreover, the benefits of Maps far out weigh concerns that are a figment of imagination.

  8. Thanks for this valuable advice as always.
    Personally I have been always vigilant with the tracking capabilities of Google and their diverse "historification" engines. One has to find a compromise point between convenience and privacy.
    I do not see this as black or white, I mean, every person in the world should expect theses tracking activities by using such free offerings nowadays, not only coming from Google but other companies as well.
    Of course that does not invalidate one fact: if you want to remain private, don't use Google's services.

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