Most users believe that by turning off their Location History setting – including the ones in many Google apps – is enough to stop the search giant from tracking them. Well, apparently, this is not the case. According to Thrillist, turning off the said setting does not work like that.
It is worth noting that Google just changed the language on its help page for the location data settings on Thursday. This was made possible after the Associated Press conducted an investigation that revealed the tech company’s practices. Basically, the investigation confirmed that Google’s Location History was merely a deception.
According to the aforementioned investigation, Google was all about insisting that by turning off the Location History feature, it would be unable to track a user’s location. The company even notes: “With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”
In what appears to be a surprising revelation, the company is contradicting its previous statements. Google now admits still storing user location data through its various apps, such as Google Maps and general web searches. And yes, this can happen even if users turn the setting off.
On its website, the search engine giant said that the setting does not necessarily “affect other location services” on a user’s device. In addition, the company clarifies that “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”
The Associated Press, however, is not convinced. That is because the new statement Google released only applies to its Timeline, which is basically a feature that maps out the daily movements of users. In reality, the company has other means of tracking a person’s whereabouts. Google, for its part, was quick to respond to the investigation by first acknowledging the practice. It even iterated that the tracking will remain in place but with much better transparency.
Google said that it has been updated its own explanatory language in regards to the Location History setting. By doing so, it believes that the way the setting works will be more consistent and clear across our platforms. At the same time, it will be a huge lift to its own help centers.
It is safe to say that the statement marks a huge reversal from the company’s initial stance on tracking a user’s location and storing the data. Remember that this was just offered a few days prior. And just before the revelations surfaced, a spokesperson of the company told the AP:
“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. 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.”
This controversy about tracking a user’s location sparked when the FBI asked Google to track the location of a group of suspects involved in a bank robbery in Portland, Oregon. The agency pressured the tech giant to search within the requested vicinity. As expected, the results came up with various personal details, including phone numbers and addresses.
While it holds true that the Location History toggle will not really stop Google from tracking its users, they can somehow control the issue. This is by way of disabling the “Web and App Activity” option, a feature that is enabled by default. They will just have to turn it off, so Google will no longer be able to store and track their Maps data and browser searches for location anymore – at least.