Google is once again finding itself in a privacy-related controversy. The company was just recently slapped with a $5 billion antitrust fine by the EU, and it could face further allegations as part of the new foundings reported by the AP.
The company collects your location data even when you have turned off Location History across all its services. The company doesn’t collect your location data as part of the Location History feature, but instead, it continues to collect as part of “Web and App Activity” across its services. And that’s where the problem lies.
When a user turns off Location History, they most likely think they are completely stopping Google from collecting any sort of location data. But that’s not the case, and the company’s services will continue to collect location data and store it in your Google account. As part of the Web and App activities, Google usually collects your location data when you open the Maps app or even perform regular searches on Google that don’t even require your current location.
“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.”
You can turn off Web and App Activity on your Google account to stop the company from collecting your location data, but that’s not an ideal solution. Google, like other tech giants, claims to be respectful of its users’ privacy, and having to turn-off location collection multiple times to completely stop the company from collecting your location isn’t what you’d call “respecting” someone’s privacy. There should be a single, unified button that completely — completely— stops Google from collecting users’ location. No Location History, no Web and App Activity, and no device-level Location Services.
It is quite difficult to use modern services without really giving out your location data nowadays — Google Maps needs your location data to recommend restaurants you might like depending on your past visits to other restaurants, and even apps like Snapchat need your location to provide interactive filters like the location filter for different cities, festivals, etc. But when a user clearly doesn’t want their location data to be collected, companies like Google should respect their decision and just completely stop collecting their data instead of being all sneaky.