By: Marrian Zhou / CNET


(CNET) – Going off the grid with Google is harder than you might expect.

Google services on Android devices and iPhones track and store your location data even if you turn location history off in your privacy settings, according to an Associated Press investigation.

You can turn off location history any time, but some Google apps still store your time-stamped location data, the AP reported. Google also reportedly uses this location data to target ads based on users’ specific locations.

Turning off location history just appears to remove your location from the Google Maps Timeline feature, which shows you where you’ve been in Google’s data.

You can turn off web and app activity tracking, which is enabled by default, and delete your location data in your Google account at myactivity.google.com. However, as the AP notes, this may affect how some services work, such as ride-hailing apps.

To find out if you’re tracked by Google, you can go to your Google Maps Timeline, and from there you can check your phone’s location settings and make adjustments.

Tech giants have been under fire for scandals related to data privacy. Even the protection of location data has concerned Congress. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce last month sent a pair of letters to Apple and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, inquiring how the companies protect users’ privacy. Apple has responded with detailed answers to each question; Alphabet hasn’t.

“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,” a Google spokesperson said in an email statement. “As the story notes, we make sure Location History users know that when they disable the product, we continue to use location to improve the Google experience when they do things like perform a Google search or use Google for driving directions.”

In a statement to the AP, a spokesperson for the search giant said: “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.”

Comments