Google Confession: Yes, We Track Your Location, Even When You Turn Off Location History

By Seung Lee
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The change in response regarding data came three days after the Associated Press published an investigation revealing several Google apps and services stored user location data regardless of the Location History setting.

The Mercury News

Google clarified that it does in fact collect users’ location data, even if the user’s Location History setting is turned off. The admission comes days after a report uncovered the Silicon Valley giant stored the data from smartphones regardless of setting.

Google revised a help page about its Location History setting, clarifying that the setting “does not affect other location services on your device” and that “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”

Before Thursday’s edit, the page stated “the places you go are no longer stored” with the Location History setting shut off.

The change came three days after the Associated Press published an investigation revealing several Google apps and services stored user location data regardless of the Location History setting.

In a statement to this news organization, a Google spokesperson said, “We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers.”

The spokesperson did not address why Google continued collecting location data even when the user chose to turn off its location history.

The Associated Press report alarmed privacy researchers, as collecting continuous location data may carry privacy risks, with one calling Google’s practice “disingenuous.” The Associated Press corroborated their findings with computer science researchers at Princeton University before publication.

Google takes snapshots of the user’s Location History when the Maps app is opened, the weather widget on Android phones updates and during some Google searches that have nothing to do with location, according to the Associated Press. After the snapshot, Google saves it to the user’s account.

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