Google tracks users’ movements even if they have disabled the “Location History” on devices

According to the AP, many Google services on both Android and iPhone store records of user location even if the users have disabled the “Location History”.

According to a recent investigation conducted by the Associated Press, many Google services on both Android and iPhone devices store records of user location data, and the bad news is that they do it even if the users have disabled the “Location History” on devices.

When a user disables the “Location History” from the privacy settings of Google applications, he should prevent Google from stole location data.

Currently, the situation is quite different, experts from AP discovered that even when users have turned off the Location History, some Google apps automatically store “time-stamped location data” without explicit authorization.

“Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. Google’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. (It’s possible, although laborious, to delete it .)” reads the post published by AP.

“For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are,”

“And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude—accurate to the square foot—and save it to your Google account.”

The AP has used location data from an Android smartphone with ‘Location History’ disabled to desing a map of the movements of Princeton postdoctoral researcher Gunes Acar.

Location History

 

Data plotted on the map includes records of Dr. Acar’s train commute on two trips to New York and visits to the High Line park, Chelsea Market, Hell’s Kitchen, Central Park and Harlem other markers on the map, including Acar’s home address.

“The privacy issue affects some two billion users of devices that run Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search.” continues the AP.

Google replied to the study conducted by the AP with the following statement:

“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.” states Google.

Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton researcher and former chief technologist for the FCC’s enforcement bureau, remarked that location history data should be disabled when the users switch off’ the Location History,

“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. That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”

The good news is it is possible to stop Google from collecting your location, it is sufficient to turn off the “Web and App Activity” setting, anyway, Google will continue to store location markers.

Open your web browser, go to myactivity.google.com, select “Activity Controls” and now turn off the “Web & App Activity” and “Location History. features”

For Android Devices:
Go to the “Security & location” setting, select “Privacy”, and tap “Location” and toggle it off.

For iOS Devices:
Google Maps users can access Settings → Privacy Location Services and change their location setting to ‘While Using’ the app.



Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Location Data, Google)


The post Google tracks users’ movements even if they have disabled the “Location History” on devices appeared first on Security Affairs.



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