Google Still Tracking Users Who Turn Off Location History

Staff Writer
Updated

Google's tracking your steps, even after you told to it stop. That's the frustrating news coming out of a new report that's slapping the search giant on the wrist for potentially obfuscating its user location-gathering methods.

An investigation done by the Associated Press (published by NBC News) in collaboration with researchers at Princeton University shows that the on/off switch for Google's Location History isn't the silver bullet for tracking disabling that its name suggests. Specifically, it notes "For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app."

The report points out that the tracking isn't just limited to those on Android devices, as Google app users on iPhones are also being tracked.

MORE: How to Stop Google from Tracking You Everywhere

In a statement to the AP, a Google spokesperson said "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," to defend their tracking and say it's in the interest of the user. 

If Google is to be taken at their word, keeping these location-tracking settings enabled results in users seeing content related to where they've been in the past, creating a more personalized experience. This could include restaurant recommendations from your commute populating the Google Maps app's Explore section.

What's disconcerting about this statement is the use of the word 'including' before listing off the sections of Google's privacy preferences, which leaves room for other, unlisted means of location tracking.

Google's statement continued, saying "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." Jonathan Mayer, a computer scientist at Princeton, believes that Google's being too opaque, saying "If you're going to allow users to turn off something called 'Location History,' then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off."

Ready to make your Google services less personalized by removing Google's methods to track your location? Check out our step-by-step guide here.