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Avoiding Google’s Geotracking Requires Disabling More Than Location History

The Associated Press, working with computer-science researchers at Princeton University, has discovered that Google’s iOS and Android apps track your location even if you turn off the Location History setting. Google says, “With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.” However, AP and the Princeton researchers found that Google may record your location anyway, such as when you open the Google Maps app. That’s thanks to another setting, Web & App Activity, which can store location data independently.

If you’re perturbed by all this, you can disable both Location History and Web & App Activity, but doing so prevents Google from storing search history, potentially making searches and other Google tools less useful. You can also delete your previous location history and search activity. iOS users have another way to avoid sharing such data with Google. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services, where you can fine tune when particular Google apps are allowed to access your location.

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Comments About Avoiding Google’s Geotracking Requires Disabling More Than Location History

Notable Replies

  1. Let’s see how Discourse polls work!

    Does Google’s location tracking bother you enough to turn off Location History and Web & App Activity or avoid Google’s iOS apps entirely?

    Vote in the poll.
  2. One of the main reasons I don’t want any Google apps on my iPhone. Free isn’t free and I’m not willing to pay their price for “free”.

  3. Adam, there should be a “Maybe” option. I’m on the fence about this and would have selected “Maybe”. Since that option didn’t exist, I had to vote “No”.

  4. I have none of their apps on my phone.

    I do have several Gmail accounts. I used to just instantly add one for each project I was involved in, while I only check one now, that account is everywhere… at some point I’ll unhook all that.

  5. While I like the aggregated information Google is able to show us from tracking (e.g., busy hours of shops/restaurants), I don’t like the personalised predictions/targeting. Apple also tracks our geoinformation but uses it only in aggregated form and by respecting our privacy Since I can not enable only aggregated analysis of my location data (and disable the personalised one), I prefer to disable entirely Google geotracking. And I hate the way they made it confusing for us.

  6. That’s precisely why I didn’t have a Maybe option. Either you really don’t like the tracking and have taken steps to stop it, or you haven’t. It’s like being pregnant—either you are or you aren’t, there is no middle ground. :-)

  7. I beg to differ here as there are some Google apps I can’t do away with yet, GMail for example because my ISP contracted with GMail years ago to handle their email. Another is Google search, I’ve tried Duck Duck, Bing, etc. but they just aren’t as good. Apple Maps is now good enough to turn off Google Maps. So my “No” is not because I don’t mind tracking, but because I CAN’T stop using all things Google yet.

  8. That’s what I’m saying, though. You’re bothered, but not enough to go to the mega-hassle that’s necessary to avoid Google entirely. Which applies to many people.

  9. In my case, I have disabled location tracking for web & app activity, device information, voice and audio activity, YouTube search history, and YouTube watch history, but I left location history on, so that Google Maps will be useful. (On my phone, I have location services set to “while using the app” for Google Maps and Waze).

    I answered “no” to the poll, but the reality is that my answer should be “no and yes”. It’s a little more complicated than just “no” or “yes”, as there are discrete ways to prevent location tracking with some Google services and allow it for others.

  10. It is such an infringement on my privacy. That I turned everything off. Just using Bing as a search engine.
    On my iOS device I checked the box 'only when using" for the maps and traffic. They tracked every local trip I made. Who are these people anyway? Outrageous.

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