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Google will track you even when you’ve told it not to

14 August 2018

Google reportedly continues to store users' location data even on phones that have privacy settings set to prevent that kind of tracking.

It's worth noting that even after you've turned these location features off, Google results still might use your search history to make a guess about where you are.

The Associated Press quotes Google's support pages as saying: "You can turn off Location History at any time.

If you want to prevent Google from storing location markers, disabling "Web & App Activity" will do the trick.

While Google's statement may be technically correct, the issue is that so numerous company's services track your location, it's virtually impossible for the user to know just how many services they need to disable to regain their privacy. The Weather app on Android phones also grabs your location to roughly pinpoint where you are.

The privacy issue affects some two billion users of devices that run Google's Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search.

The AP's findings were confirmed by computer-science researchers at Princeton University. He says that "storing location data in violation of a user's preferences is wrong".

Some would argue that Google is being clever by half here, and that a completely reasonable person would no sooner assume that going to "Web and App Activity" would be necessary for users to completely obscure their location from Google any more than it would hide a completely novel pancake recipe.

"Location History is a Google product that is entirely opt in, and users have the controls to edit, delete, or turn it off at any time".

In order to prevent Google's location tracking, users need to disable the opaquely-named "Web and App Activity" setting - but even this is not a flawless solution.

When paused, it will prevent activity on any device from being saved to your account.

Overall, it seems that the primary location-gathering aspect related to "Web & App History" comes from Google searches.

Mashable was also provided with this link on Google's location data policy.

Getting rid of those location markers, AP reported, is "a painstaking process".

Now we come to the crux of the issue, which is disabling Web & App activity. She'd noticed a prompt on her Android phone asking her to rate a trip to Kohl's, even though her location history was turned off. Some might find that useful, but in the case of products like Google Maps, it also makes things a little less user-friendly. "They build advertising information out of data", he said. "More data for them presumably means more profit".

As for Shankari, she's most indignant about the opacity of the whole system; "I am not opposed to background location tracking in principle", she clarified. Check out our overview of Google's Activity Controls here. "It just really bothers me that it is not explicitly stated". At a Google Marketing Live summit in July, Google executives unveiled a new tool called "local campaigns" that dynamically uses ads to boost in-person store visits. So, to erase your entire Google footprint, you'll want to go into the "My Activity" page where you can see everything you've done that touches Google services. Even if reports like the AP's generate fleeting moments of outrage, we've already traded away a healthy portion of our identities and habits in order to be able to both use Google Maps and be served endless programmatic ads.

Google will track you even when you’ve told it not to