You may have assumed that turning off Google’s Location History option on your phone meant that Google would no longer be able to track your movements. But the truth is that Google can continue to collect your device location data and even track you on a minute-by-minute basis, other places you have visited throughout the day and remember your home address, the Associated Press reports.
AP found out that Google continues to track you through their services like Google maps, weather updates, and browser searchers – any app activity can be used to track you.
By switching off your Location History, you ar4e only stopping Google from adding your movements to its Timeline feature, which logs where you have been visually. However, there’s a way to stop Google from actually tracking you: this can be done by digging through the settings of your device to turn off “Web and App Activity.”
If you go ahead and toggle off “Web and App Activity,” which is default enabled, Google will no longer be able to store a snapshot of where you have been using Maps data and browser searches that pinpoint your exact GPS coordinates.
As long as your device Web and App Activity setting is enabled, Google will store your time-stamped location data. But you can manually delete this data by heading into myactivity.google.com and afterwards click on specific geo-stamped entries. You can also remove batches of entries sorted by web service or date.
Google’s stance is that Location History’s functionality and purpose is spelt out to users. A statement from a Google’s spokesperson to the Verge, “The Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt-in, and the users have the controls to edit, delete, or turn it off at their own will.
As the story notes, we always make sure Location History users know that whenever they disable the product, we continue to use location to improve the Google experience when they do things like use Google for driving directions or perform a Google search.”
However, it’s still not clear to most users how these options work or that there’s something called “Web and App Activity” which Google is using in the collection of location data. In the past, tech companies have landed themselves with federal authority confusing privacy practices. Several other tech giants like Facebook, Uber and Vizia has been investigated and fined by the FTC for misleading data practices in the past.
However, this is not the first time we hear of Google tracking your location regardless of whether your location services is turned on. Quartz reported last November that Android phones still collect your location data from cell towers nearby and then sent to Google, even if you switch off location services and take out your SIM card.
Later Google said it would remove such feature by December of last year. This time, it is a little different because instead of it being cell towers that are the culprit, its web services. But if anyone should pay close attention to the fine print of permissions agreements, they can catch whatever the tech companies are doing.