The headline isn’t really that shocking anymore. We’ve now realized that there’s no such thing as complete data privacy, particularly when it comes to tech giants. But it’s still pretty annoying (and maybe even angering) to know that Google apparently still tracks your location even if you’ve explicitly told it not to do so. A report from the Associated Press has disclosed this not-so-secret news and so, of course, people are now worried about this matter. But Google counters that they “provide clear descriptions” of their various tools and that people will always have the option to turn controls on and off at any time.
When you’re using a product like Google Maps, obviously you need Google to track where you are to provide clear navigation. There are times of course when you’d want to turn off your Location History and so you toggle it off and your understanding is that it will not store anymore the places that you go to since you’ve expressly told it not to do so. But as the AP has discovered and revealed, Google still has other ways to know where you are and where you’ve been and they’re still storing that history.
What they did not explicitly made clear is that there are different apps and services that are still able to track your location. For example, using the Weather app means you’re telling Google where you are. Using its search engine also saves your exact location so it can give you better results (and obviously for advertising reasons as well). Even Google Maps itself saves a snapshot of your location when you open it.
While Google says they provide clear descriptions for the various tools, obviously not a lot of people know that turning the location history off on Maps is not enough. Now if you want to completely stop location tracking, Google says you can go to the Web and App Activity section of your Google account and toggle on and off each of the items there. There are detailed explanations as to what will happen so better explore it for yourself and understand what it is that you’re turning on or off.
We take things like this for granted most of the time (unless you’re a privacy and security buff) and it’s only when reports like this come out that we realize that we’re giving companies like Google so much leeway on our digital lives. If you’re fine with that, then just carry on. But if you’re beginning to realize that you need to pay more attention to the “fine print” then be more careful and read up on all your privacy controls.