"I knew I was being tracked but naively didn't think they were saving everything in a timeline," says Google user Leslie Morgan Nakajima, of Capitola, California. "But to see everything there was pretty chilling. They had every store, restaurant and bar I had visited, and the exact times I was there. I was so freaked out."
It is no secret that the tech behemoth, Google, is in the data mining business. From cookies to targeted ads, the amount of specific information they have on individuals is mind blowing.
While these "features" are marketed to users to improve their user experience, the Orwellian tracking systems employed by Google to do so are shocking, especially the location tracking and history.
By default, Google's Location History function is turned off and users must 'opt in' to turn it on. However, many Google users report never turning it on, yet when they check their history, Google has been tracking them for months.
The reason Google users don't remember turning it on is due to the fact that to use certain features and apps on certain devices, you will get a notification stopping you from using it — until you let Google track you.
As Jefferson Graham points out for USA Today:
For instance, Google Maps has a service called "Match," which suggests restaurants based on your past dining experiences and tastes. If you click on it, Google sends you to Settings to allow Location History tracking.
Google also routes people to turn on Location History in exchange for "real-time traffic updates based on your current location," or with Google Photos to "help improve auto-organization and search."
The fact is that Google is totally upfront about this too. It is clearly defined in their terms of service agreement. However, most people never bother to read the dozens of pages of fine print before turning on certain features on their devices.
According to Google's own terms, Location History "saves where you go even when you aren't using a specific Google service."
Recommended for You
Now that you are successfully disturbed, it is rather simple to turn this function off and delete the data.
You need to go to your account and click on Data & Personalization and turn off all the ways Google spies on you.
To delete your history, on your Android phone or tablet, open your device's Settings app Settings app and then Google and then Google Account.
- At the top, tap Data & personalization.
- Under "Activity controls," tap Location History.
- At the bottom, tap Manage Timeline. Your device will open Google Maps Google Maps.
- Tap More More and then Settings.
- At the bottom, choose Delete all Location History or Delete Location History range.
If you're on a browser, go to maps.google.com/timeline. You might need to sign in. You can delete individual locations, locations by date, or your whole location history in Timeline.
Now you are finished. However, according to Google, "even after you delete your Location History information, some location data may continue to be saved in other settings, like Web & App Activity, as part of your use of other services, like Search and Maps."
So, depending on what apps you have installed, you should sift through them to see if they are holding this data.
"Tracking without meaningful controls for individuals is not good for society and individual freedoms," Aleksandra Korolova, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Southern California says. "Going forward, if information is going to be tracked, then individuals should be given more meaningful controls to opt-out."
We agree. Not a Google user? To see what data your Amazon device is gathering on you, click here.