You've turned off the location history for your mobile phone because you don't want Google to keep track of where you go. Are you now safe from Google's prying eyes? Not quite. You have to take another step to fully hide your whereabouts.
Many Google apps and services on Android phones and iPhones continue to store data on your location even if you disable your location history, according to a new report from the Associated Press. Uncovered by a graduate researcher at UC Berkeley and backed up by researchers at Princeton, the findings were confirmed by Google, which indicated to the AP that this behavior is intentional.
"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," a Google spokesperson said in a statement sent to the AP. "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."
Google, Facebook, and other tech players continually face complaints and criticism over the way they handle privacy for their users. Companies like Google may think their descriptions and instructions on privacy settings on clear and transparent. But many users are still confused by the hurdles they often have to jump over to fully secure their privacy.
Beyond turning off location history, you can prevent Google from tracking your location by disabling a setting called Web & App Activity. Here's how:
On your Android Phone
Open Settings. Tap the setting for Accounts or Google. Select your Google account.
That should bring you to your Google Account page. Tap the link for Data & personalization. Under Activity controls, tap the entry for Web & App Activity. Turn it off. Read the fine print and then tap Pause. That setting is now disabled, or paused, as Google puts it.
Next, go back to the Data & personalization screen. Tap the entry for Location History, and make sure the switch to Use Location History is turned off.
For your iPhone
To disable these options for your iPhone, you'll have to access your Google settings on the Web, but the basic process is the same as on an Android phone. Browse to your Google Accounts page. In the section for Personal info & privacy, click the link to Go to my activity. Your activity page shows any websites, apps, settings, and other items you've used on your phone, so it may be worth viewing. Click on the link for Activity controls. Now, you can turn off the switches for Web & App Activity and Location History.
The downside is that disabling Web & App Activity will hamper the effectiveness of Google search engine results, Google Assistant interactions, and other apps that rely on your location. You may want to experiment with this setting to see if you ultimately prefer it on or off.
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- Google can still keep track of your location even if you turn off your location history.
- To fully stop your whereabouts from being tracked, you need to disable another option called Web & App Activity.
- Stop Google from tracking your activities
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- Google location tracking: Turn it off for real (CNET)
- Google admits tracking users' location even when setting disabled (ZDNet)
- Your smartphone can be tracked even if GPS, location services are turned off (TechRepublic)