Google's iOS and Android Apps Track and Store Location Data With Location History Disabled

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Aug 13, 2018.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Some Google apps on iOS and Android devices continue to store location history even with the setting disabled, according to a new AP report citing data collected by computer science researchers at Princeton.

    Location History, a feature available in Google apps like Google Maps, is an option that allows the app to display the locations that you've visited in a timeline. Princeton researcher Gunnar Acar turned off the Location History option in his Google account, but his devices continued to record the locations he had visited.

    Data collected from a Princeton researcher on an Android phone with Location History disabled​

    It appears that even with Location History paused, some Google apps are ignoring the setting and continue to store time-stamped location data, due to confusing data collection policies that allow other app features to also store location information.
    While Princeton's research focused on Android devices, independent AP testing confirmed that iPhones are exhibiting the same behavior when used with Google apps.

    In response to a query about the Location History tracking, Google said that it is clear about its location policies. As it turns out though, the way Google collects location data is confusing and misleading.
    According to Google, users need to turn off "Web and App Activity," a setting enabled by default, to prevent all location data on iOS and Android devices from being saved to a Google account. Leaving "Web and App Activity" enabled while turning off "Location History" prevents Google from adding movements to the built-in timeline, but it does not stop Google from collecting other location information.

    This location data collected by Google can be found under, but as the AP points out, this information is scattered under different headers often unrelated to location.

    To be clear, Google is not illicitly collecting location data, but it is obfuscating its location data policies and collecting data through features that do not mention location information. Many people may not know these Google features are enabled at all, as it's a default setting.

    Google's only mention that it may continue storing some location data is in a popup that appears when Location History is disabled through the Google account settings. This popup states that "some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps."

    On iPhone, when Location History is disabled via settings in Google apps, it says "None of your Google apps will be able to store location data in Location History." As the AP points out, this statement is true but misleading, because while location data isn't stored in Location History, it's still stored under "My Activity."

    Location information stored in "My Activity" is used for ad targeting purposes.

    Both "Web and App Activity" and "Location History" need to be disabled to prevent Google from collecting any location data, which can be done through the user settings of a Google account. On iOS devices, not using Google apps and disabling location services for Google apps is also an effective method for preventing Google from collecting location data.

    Article Link: Google's iOS and Android Apps Track and Store Location Data With Location History Disabled
  2. RedGala macrumors regular


    Jun 17, 2015
    Enough of a reason to ditch android and all google apps
  3. macduke macrumors G3


    Jun 27, 2007
    Central U.S.
    If you didn't expect this then you've been living under a rock. This is Google all day every day. I'd be more surprised if they didn't do this.
  4. Kabeyun macrumors 65816


    Mar 27, 2004
    Eastern USA
    [MEH FACE]
    oh wow. google tries all sorts of tricks to collect user data. that’s amazing. i’m shocked, shocked I say.
    [/MEH FACE]
  5. Heineken macrumors 6502


    Jan 27, 2018
  6. ctg7w6 macrumors 6502

    Oct 23, 2014
    The article says it’s not illicitly collecting the data but rather obfuscating the process to end data collection. I wonder if a court would agree.
  7. RedWing512 macrumors regular

    May 14, 2014
    Since Google also searches shopping results, they have everything to do with location.
  8. rtomyj macrumors 6502a


    Sep 3, 2012
    Exactly. I cannot fathom how people can use Google services anymore. All their services have decent alternatives (yes even search).

    Now they’re are double dipping: ads/tracking and premium prices on hardware... Do no evil my ass.
  9. AFPoster macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    Charlotte, NC
    Google also stores your photos on there servers even when you disable the permissions, as does Facebook and Twitter.
  10. Faelan macrumors regular


    Sep 12, 2014
    Time for Margrethe Vestager to slap Google with another billion dollar fine... lol
  11. nburwell macrumors 68040


    May 6, 2008
  12. WAM2 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 6, 2011
    United States
  13. MrGimper macrumors 603


    Sep 22, 2012
    Andover, UK
    And people choose to run an Operating System from these crooks
  14. DNichter macrumors 603


    Apr 27, 2015
    Philadelphia, PA
    Of course they do, no one should be surprised by this. The only reason Google services or products exist is to collect user data and sell ads.
  15. larsolson macrumors newbie

    Apr 4, 2016
    Isn’t this a violation of Apple’s terms of service? If so, time to remove their apps like others who are removed for violations.
  16. m0sher macrumors 6502


    Mar 4, 2018
    Well looks like I’ll be moving to Apple Maps exclusively.

    I’m glad Apple has been doing a lot of revamping and getting it up to par, couldn’t come at a better time.

    Apple data privacy is hands-down better than Google’s data mining activity where Goggle even does it against your will.

    Can’t wait for iOS 12 this fall.
  17. mattyj2001 macrumors member


    Oct 29, 2015
    Android is not an operating system, it's an advertising platform. People should be more aware of this.
  18. ovo6 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 10, 2015
    Whoever uses google is crazy I only have YouTube installed but the question is what Apple going to do about it
  19. code-m macrumors 6502a


    Apr 13, 2006
    This is not new information as it has been known for a while (I believe over a year plus). Most phones collect location and other metric information this is how the in iOS also works without a cell signal. Granted with Googles method there is no transparency and mistrust as the user believes their are opting out, however this information is being collected. I am unsure if any other 3rd party apps or even Apples apps do this, would be interesting to know.

    I believe Google is using passive collection (cell signal not required, collects metrics or shared through other apps and reports once connected to WiFi) and reporting vice active (cell signal required).
  20. BuddyTronic macrumors 6502a

    Jul 11, 2008
    “Don’t be Evil”. Yeah right Google. Dirty Stuff!
  21. Radon87000 macrumors 604

    Nov 29, 2013
    Still wipes the floor with Apple Maps and I need to use it.
  22. wolf359design macrumors newbie

    Jan 31, 2007
    --- Post Merged, Aug 13, 2018 ---
    A whore of a company that can't make anything original...
  23. WannaGoMac macrumors 68020

    Feb 11, 2007
    NVM, i found a way to delete all activity.

    What sneaky if you get a new android device, or re-install android, the setting to track you is turned back on (at least that whats happened to me)
  24. ignatius345 macrumors 65816

    Aug 20, 2015
    I just checked and I guess I'd already "paused" that setting. I generally turn everything I can OFF with Google because I trust them so little.

    I have Google Maps on my phone, but I used the iOS "offload" feature so it's basically crippled/uninstalled until I need it. I do the same with any app I'm not keen on potentially running in the background on a day-to-day basis.
  25. Heineken macrumors 6502


    Jan 27, 2018
    No need for drama, everyone knows it’s not like that.

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