Google Admits to Location History Collection

Posted on August 16, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google with 42 Comments

Just days after an explosive report claimed that Google was collecting location data when disabled by the user, the online giant has admitted to the behavior.

The issue is clear enough: Google provides a Location History interface for its account settings, and it allows users to disable this tracking and delete their history at any time. The problem? Even if the user does disable location history, Google continues tracking their location.

The key, as the Associated Press discovered, is a related option called Web and Web Activity. When this option remains enabled, Google continues tracking your location.

When pressed on this topic, Google’s initial response was, shall we say, a bit less than believable.

“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,” a Google spokesperson told the AP. “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.”

Few people would agree that Google’s descriptions of its location-tracking collection were “clear.” But not coincidentally, the online giant has just quietly changed those descriptions to make them, if not “clear,” then at least clearer.

More important, in doing so, it has admitted to the behavior alleged by the AP.

“You can turn off Location History at the account level at any time [but] this setting does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device,” a Google help page now reads. “Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps. When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it’s off for all devices associated with that Google Account.”

Previously, this page claimed that “with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.” The page was changed sometime on Thursday.

When asked by the AP about the quiet change, Google issued the following response.

“We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers,” Google says.


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