by Simon Baxendale
A recent Associated Press exclusive demonstrated that Google will track and store some of your location data, even if you have the 'location history' setting turned off.
Data sharing and privacy concerns have never been starker than in 2018, with Facebook’s dramatic headline-grabbing fiasco surrounding user information shared with Cambridge Analytica having brought the old worries about online safety back into firm focus – and while it appears that more apps and platforms are now taking greater steps to avoid infringing on privacy rights and data usage, a recent report shows that certain Google apps and services may have been continuing to track their users even if they haven’t offered consent. If this report has any future grounding, it could be a very worrying moment indeed.
An investigation by AP News found that some Google services are continuing to track users regardless of their privacy settings. This means that – even if you’ve disabled ‘location history’ via your iPhone or Android device – the company may still have been able to track your every move. Users are able to permit Google access to their location before using such apps – and, as such, they consent to the firm allowing them to record where they travel, and to collate such data via a timeline of events. Despite this feature supposedly preventing Google from tracking you, it emerges that it may not necessarily be doing its job – if the recent investigation is to be believed.
▶ Report: Google May Be Tracking You Despite Privacy Settings
The investigation found that certain apps were still tracking data despite having location services paused – however, it has emerged that pausing location history merely prevents you from being able to access your location history via your device, and that certain data may still be stored by other apps. The AP investigation noted that users were advised that ‘some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps’ – when choosing to switch off location history via the web app. Therefore, it seems that Google has already covered itself – though the news that tracking may still occur despite certain features having been switched off may not sit too well with many users.
▶ Tracking Allegations Against Google Are Disturbing, ACLU's Singh Guliani Says
Our smartphones and tablets may offer plenty of entertainment and ease of use – but it is always important to read the fine print – as certain services may request access to your location, your call records and more besides. If you are ever in doubt about signing into an app or handing over sensitive data, the message is clear – don’t do it!
▶ Google may be tracking your location