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

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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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.
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.
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.
"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 said in a statement to 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."
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 myactivity.google.com, 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
 
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m0sher

macrumors 6502a
Mar 4, 2018
807
775
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.
 

code-m

macrumors 68000
Apr 13, 2006
1,932
1,521
Enough of a reason to ditch android and all google apps
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 Health.app 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).
 

wolf359design

macrumors newbie
Jan 31, 2007
25
12



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 myactivity.google.com, 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
[doublepost=1534189135][/doublepost]A whore of a company that can't make anything original...
 

WannaGoMac

macrumors 68030
Feb 11, 2007
2,504
3,633
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)
 

ignatius345

macrumors 68030
Aug 20, 2015
2,927
3,895
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.
 
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