If you use Google’s apps on your iOS device, like Google Maps or the search app, but have Location History turned off in an effort to prevent the company from keeping tabs on you, a new report has some bad news.
According to the Associated Press, while Google is being truthful in its statement that turning off Location History will prevent the service from showing your movement on your personalized timeline, it won’t actually keep the company from finding other ways to track your location. As was confirmed by researchers at Princeton and the AP, even with Location History turned off, or paused, Google has other means to keep tracking your location.
That starts with its apps, but is also tied to another setting that is enabled by default. According to the report, even if you have Location History switched off, if you have another setting called “Web & App Activity” turned on, Google will take snapshots of your location as you use its apps. So opening up the Google Maps app will earn Google a snapshot of your location, for instance.
Even if you just use the search app, looking for something that isn’t location-based, the app will identify your latitude and longitude, and your location information will be stored to your Google account.
Here is Google’s statement on the matter:
“There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to the AP. “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.”
So turning off Location History will keep Google from presenting your past movements, but it will not completely stop the company from tracking you while you use its apps on your iOS or Android device. If you want to stop the tracking altogether, you need to find the setting called “Web & App Activity” and turn that off, too. If you keep it on, it will continue to not only track your location, but also store a variety of other pieces of information to your Google account as well.
“You can see the stored location markers on a page in your Google account at myactivity.google.com, although they’re typically scattered under several different headers, many of which are unrelated to location.”
The full report is available through the source link below. This is certainly something to be aware of, especially if you previously turned off Location History thinking it would prevent your location tracking.
It isn’t surprising in the slightest that Google has more than one avenue to track a user’s location, even after they’ve turned off a setting that explicitly deals with location tracking. It’d be nice if the “Web & App Activity” feature also made it clear that it stopped location tracking efforts, too.
Of course, let’s not forget that the iPhone has been caught up in its own location tracking story back in 2016, too.