Google records location data even when told not to

By Ryan Nakashima

The privacy of some two billion users of Google Android software and hundreds of millions of iPhone users has been questioned after it emerged Google records people’s movements even when explicitly told not to.

An investigation has found many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store the person’s location data, even if they have used a privacy setting which states it will prevent Google from doing so.

The tech giant lets a user pause the location history setting. However, the Associated Press has reported — and researchers at Princeton University have agreed — that even with location paused, some Google apps store time-stamped location data without asking.

Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the US Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau, said storing location data in violation of a user’s preferences is wrong.

Mr Mayer said: “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.”

Google said it provides clear descriptions of its location tools and robust controls so people can turn them off and on and delete histories at any time.

However, it is claimed that leaving “Web & App Activity” on and turning “Location History” off only prevents Google from adding your movements to the timeline — its visualisation of your daily travels. It does not stop Google’s collection of other location markers.

Since 2014, Google has let advertisers track the effectiveness of online ads when it comes to driving foot traffic, a feature Google has said relies on user location histories. The company is pushing further into such location-aware tracking to drive advertising revenue.

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