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Google Tracks Your Movements, Like It or Not


Even with Location History turned off, Google can obtain detailed location and travel information.

Researchers at Princeton University have confirmed that many Google services on smartphones store location data even if a user selects a privacy setting that says it will prevent such tracking.

Credit: Seth Wenig/AP

Princeton University researchers have confirmed that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store location data even if a user selects a privacy setting that says it will prevent such tracking.

Google allows users to "pause" its Location History feature, saying this will prevent the company from remembering user locations. However, some Google apps continue to automatically store time-stamped location data without asking, even with Location History paused.

For example, Google stores a location snapshot when users open its Maps app, and some searches unrelated to location calculate precise latitude and longitude and save this information to a user's Google account.

To demonstrate how much information Google can obtain with Location History turned off, the Associated Press created a visual map of the movements of Princeton postdoctoral researcher Gunes Acar. The resulting map shows Acar's train commute on two trips to New York, and visits to specific parks and other locations.

The experiment also revealed Acar's home address.

This issue impacts the privacy of about 2 billion Android users and hundreds of millions of iPhone users who depend on Google for maps or search.

From Associated Press
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