Google always knows where you are, even when you tell them not to track you. So says the latest research. What they do with that data is just scary.
An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.
Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP’s request.
For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a “timeline” that maps out your daily movements.
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.
But AP researchers for this to be ‘untrue’.
Princeton computer scientist Jonathan Mayer believes that the way Google is storing the data when they do not have permission from the user is wrong.
“If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off,” Mayer said. “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”
A Google spokesperson explained to AP, “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.”
“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.”
The warnings when turning off the Location History between the different types of phones are also worded differently and can confuse the users.