An investigation launched by the Associated Press (AP) discovered that Google apps, such as Maps and Search, store a user's location data on a minute-by-minute basis and present it in the form of a timeline for them to view. Another researcher confirmed the findings on multiple Android devices.
However, Google's apps don't just access your real-time location - they also store your location history, recording your every move.
"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", Princeton computer scientist Jonathan Mayer told AP.
The AP estimates that this affects roughly 2 billion users, and they note that it applies to iPhone and Android users alike.
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In response to the article, Google says that it is completely transparent regarding the use of data in its location history. But apparently, there is another setting - the one that is not that well advertised to users - that needs to be toggled to stop the tracking that Google services do using GPS, Wi-Fi signals, cellular signals, IP address and everything else.
We've reached out to Google to ask why user control over location tracking is spread out across multiple options and whether it has recently changed any of its explanations for users. "More data for them presumably means more profit".
This information is stored in a timeline that shows a visualization of where users have been.
Besides ambiguous wording, users could be further confused by the fact that Location History is turned off by default, while the web and app activity tracking is turned on by default.