Google has long offered an option to disable Location History, which it’s been expected would prevent Google from tracking where you’ve been. It turns out that that’s not the case.
A new report from the Associated Press has found that even if you disable Location History, Google will still remember where you’ve been, despite the Location History toggle saying “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.” This news was discovered by the AP and then verified by Princeton researchers.
According to this report, some Google apps automatically store location data that’s also time-stamped, like where you are when you open Google Maps. Automatic daily weather updates on Android can result in your location being remembered, too, as can searches that have nothing to do with location like “chocolate chip cookies”. This applies to both Android and iOS devices.
Google says that it’s being clear in its explanation of its tools and that users can delete their location history at any time if they want. The company’s full statement regarding this matter looks like this:
“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. 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.”
If you’d like to stop Google from remembering your location markers, you’ll need to disable the “Web and App Activity” setting in your account. That toggle can be found in “Activity controls” in the “Personal info & privacy” section of your Google account.
It’s no surprise that Google collects location data to improve its services, but it’s kind of disappointing that the company still remembers places you’ve been even if you disable Location History. Given the name and description of that feature, it sure sounds like toggling it off would mean that Google will no longer save any of your location data, but apparently that’s not the case. So if you don’t want Google saving any of your location data, go disable Web and App Activity in your Google account now.