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By now most people know that Google keeps a log of everywhere you go if you use Google apps and services on your phone. Google knows a lot about you and, it has a creepy amount of information that might surprise you.
Google does, however, make it easy to find this information and limit how it can track you. I recently performed Google’s “Privacy Checkup” to learn a bit more about what it knows about me, and was pretty surprised at the level of detail it had on my exact locations.
I picked a random previous date: May 14, 2019. It knew everywhere I went. It knew I took Interstate 45 from my home in Houston to a meeting in Dallas. It knew I left my home at 7:18 am. It knew that at 12:48 pm I pulled into an office building and stayed there until 4:15 pm. It also knew which restaurant I went to that evening and the location and name of the hotel I stayed in overnight. And yes, it knew every place I went that evening, the time I left the hotel the next day, the gas station I filled my car’s tank in, and when I pulled into my driveway the next afternoon. It had times and locations of everyplace I went to on my overnight trip. And it had a copy of the handful of pictures I took while I was there.
It’s a creepy level of detail.
I have been telling friends for several years not to trust any company that collects such information about us. Google is probably the worst, but Facebook is coming up close behind. Tracking is part of their business model. I just happened to turn Location Services on for the GPS mapping application, but neglected to turn it off when I arrived at the meeting.
But I have to admit, it came in extremely handy using the GPS in my phone to make locating the meeting location and then the hotel a lot easier. Like most people, I forgot that Google is tracking, recording, and cataloguing everything I do and everyplace I go while Location Services is turned on in my phone.
Google says it uses location history to “create a private map of where you go with your signed-in devices even when you aren’t using a specific Google service.” It also says the “map is only visible to you.” The data, it says, provides “improved map searches and commute routes, as well as helping you to rediscover the places you’ve been and the routes you’ve traveled.”
What? Rediscover? As if I forgot where I’ve been and how I got there?
I don’t really care about that information. I know the roads I drove on May 14, and I can’t see any reason why Google should store it, even if they claim it’s only for my use. I never know who might be able to access that data, even if Google tells me it’s private. Their business model contradicts that claim, but that’s a topic for another article.
You can stop Google from storing your location history and delete what it has already stored.
- First, go to myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup. This is a good page to bookmark, since it gives you granular control over lots of privacy settings.
- Next, scroll down to “Location History” and choose “Manage Location History.”
- This is where you’ll see everywhere you’ve been. It’s a freaky level of detail if you leave Location Services turned on within your phone.
- Tap “Manage Location History” at the bottom of the screen again.
- Toggle the button to turn off Location History.
To delete your history, do this:
- Tap the settings button on the “Location History” map.
- Select “Delete all location history.”
That’s not it, though.
Google will continue tracking your location unless you also turn off a separate “Web & App Activity” tracker. Google says it tracks your location from apps to provide “better recommendations, and more personalized experiences in Maps, Search, and other Google services.”
And don’t forget to turn off Location Services in your phone itself. That’s the switch that opens the door.
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