On Android devices there is a “Location” setting where you can turn it on/off to allow or prevent apps from accessing your location. There are many apps that love to use your location to send you “nearby offers,” and the easiest and best way to block it is to prevent it from accessing your location. However, what if apps are still tracking your location even when you have explicitly set it not to do so?
Google is the main culprit here. It was recently discovered that Google has been recording your location (on mobile) even when you have turned the Location setting to “Off.” Even with your “Location History” paused, some Google apps, like Google Maps, still automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.
Here is what was discovered:
Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude — accurate to the square foot — and save it to your Google account.
As useful as the Location setting can be, when we turn it off, it is akin to saying “we don’t want to be tracked.” Even on Google’s support page it is stated that:
“With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored. When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it’s off for all devices associated with that Google Account.”
Apparently, Google decided that your location data is too precious, and they just have to access it regardless of your preferences. Don’t forget that GPS is not the only way to find out your location.
Prevent Google from Tracking Your Location
Apparently, turning the “Location” setting to off is not sufficient in this case, though it is still important to have it “off” to prevent other apps from using your location.
When using Google, you can turn off location tracking completely by disabling the “Location History” and “Web and App activity” options in your Google account. Follow the instructions below:
On Your Desktop
1. Open your browser and go to your Google Activity page.
2. Sign in with your Google account.
3. On the left sidebar click “Activity controls.”
4. You should see the “Web & App activity” section, and it should be enabled by default. Toggle the “Web & App activity” to “Off.”
5. On the popup prompt click “Pause.”
6. Scroll down the page, and make sure “Location History” is set to “Paused,” too.
Do note that after switching off the “Web & App activity,” some of your Google apps, like Google Assistant and Google Home, will not work as intended. If you still need them to send you traffic and weather updates, do not disable the “Web & Apps activity” option.
1. On your Android device go to “Settings -> Google.”
2. Tap on “Google Account.”
3. Scroll right to the “Data & Personalisation” section.
4. Under the “Activity Controls” section make sure the “Web & Apps activity” and “Location History” settings are turned off.
Alternatively, if you can’t find the Google option in your phone’s Settings, follow the steps below:
1. On your Android device open the Google app.
2. Tap on the menu icon at the bottom. (It should the first from the right.)
3. Tap “Settings -> Accounts & Privacy -> Google activity controls.”
4. Tap on “Web & App activity,” and toggle it off.
With everything that you are doing online, Google is keeping track of you (even when you are not on Google’s website). While companies, in the name of convenience, are recording every step you make (literally), limiting these companies to what they can and cannot access is the immediate solution to reclaiming our privacy.
Let us know what you think of Google tracking your location behind your back. Will you forgo the “convenience” provided by Google and disable location tracking completely?
Image credit: Google Maps for Mobile 2.0 was released by mirtmirt/Shutterstock