Google confirms it tracks users even when 'Location History' setting is disabled

Posted:
in iOS
Google updated help center documentation Thursday to clarify its location data collection policies, changes made in light of recent revelations that the firm's apps and website continue to harvest user information even when a global "Location History" setting is disabled.

Google Maps


Earlier this week, the Associated Press, with help from Princeton researchers, broke news that Google logs users' location data even when features that are meant to stop the tracking are enabled. Whether on iOS or Android, many Google apps -- including Google Maps -- store a user's location whenever the app is opened.

In response to the report, Google updated its support documents to better explain the feature, called "Location History," though it continues to collect the data.

Apps like Google Maps require location access in order to provide real-time directions, meaning users must allow iOS to share that data with the app. In an effort to help users who would want to use the app, but don't want their data stored, Google offers a feature called Location History which can pause logging of that data.

Previously, Google's support page said Location History can be turned off by the user at any given time, assumedly preventing visited places from being stored on Google's servers.

"With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored," the document read. The AP investigation showed this was not the case.

Google's updated language now says, "This setting does not affect other location services on your device," and adds, "Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps."

"We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers." Google said in a statement to the AP.

Users who wish to stop tracking altogether must disable "Web and App Activity" in addition to Location History. Leaving Web and App Activity enabled while turning Location History off only prevents additions to the Google Maps timeline, and does not stop data collection.

Google's help center update is not likely to appease users who have scrutinized the search giant and other tech companies for their user privacy policies. The move, however, provides at least some transparency on what data Google is harvesting from its customers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    50 billion dollar fine. Now. Why? For human rights violations. Let’s try to catalog the meaningful ones.

    The United Nations. Putting aside how much of an enemy to humanity itself the United Nations is, it does have some interesting documentation. One of these documents recognizes (which generally means fuck all for a government in practice, but hey) the human right to privacy.
    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
    The United States. The Constitution implicitly grants a right to privacy in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th amendments. “BUT THAT’S ONLY THE GOVERNMENT!” the leftists will scream. Ah, but which multinational corporation receives FUNDING FROM MULTIPLE GOVERNMENTS AROUND THE WORLD? I wonder…

    India. The Indian constitution implicitly grants the right to privacy under Article 21, and affirmed in Kharak Singh v. State of U.P.[lxxi]
    It held that “an unauthorized intrusion into a person’s home and the disturbance caused to him thereby, is as it were the violation of a common law right of a man -an ultimate essential of ordered liberty, if not of the very concept of civilization”
    China. LOL, just wanted to have a laugh today.

    EU. Do you guys even recognize the general right to privacy? I see an act for a “digital right to privacy” including “anonymization on request” (like, the deletion of stuff from a website), but you clearly don’t honor that. Would I have to look at each constituent country’s own laws to see if they include a general right to privacy? 
    edited August 2018 magman1979claire1macseekerracerhomie3olsbigbillygoatgruffmonstrosityequality72521watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 40
    gilly33gilly33 Posts: 219member
    Big surprise.
    jbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 40
    tyler82tyler82 Posts: 770member
    I hate Google.
    magman1979tallest skillostkiwiolsbigbillygoatgruffalanhredgeminipawilliamlondonmonstrositywatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 40
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,422member
    Do not worry gatorguy will be here soon to say this was mistake, Google never really did this since there EULA says they do not do these things.

    Anyone surprised this was going on.
    tallest skilmacxpressjbdragonbshankmacseekerRayz2016lostkiwibigbillygoatgruffredgeminiparazorpit
  • Reply 5 of 40
    adamcadamc Posts: 564member
    "The move, however, provides at least some transparency on what data Google is harvesting from its customers." LOL AI you can do better than that as an Apple centric site or perhaps should rename Googleinsider.
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 40
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,620member
    So Google actually admits it and now is updating the fine print to inform you of it. Nice.
    bshanktallest skillostkiwiredgeminiparazorpitmagman1979watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 7 of 40
    claire1claire1 Posts: 494unconfirmed, member
    In other news water is wet and iKnockoff users will claim "But Apple probably does that too!!"
    redgeminipamagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 40
    emoelleremoeller Posts: 415member
    I'm coining this first - Googweasel - a despicably underhanded, nefarious, activity resulting in total disregard for privacy.
    olsredgeminipamagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 40
    lkrupp said:
    So Google actually admits it and now is updating the fine print to inform you of it. Nice.
    Makes you wonder what else they didn't acknowledge or tell us in their fine print, well until someone discovered them.
    racerhomie3lostkiwiolsairnerdredgeminiparazorpitmagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 40
    My brother in law said “why do we care that we’re being tracked, again?” I’d enjoy reading some of your reasons.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 40
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    maestro64 said:
    Do not worry gatorguy will be here soon to say this was mistake, Google never really did this since there EULA says they do not do these things.

    Anyone surprised this was going on.
    Actually, yes. 

    In light of the mess Facebook got itself into, and the fact that Google was already found guilty of breaching trust when they took advantage of a Safari bug to track users when they’d specifically requested not to Be tracked:

    https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2012/08/google-will-pay-225-million-settle-ftc-charges-it-misrepresented

    then I’m surprised they would think that something like this would not be discovered eventually. The only conclusion I can draw is that the company genuinely believed that it is okay to deceive people, and that everyone else would think so too. 


    edited August 2018 Soliracerhomie3lostkiwiolsbigbillygoatgruffredgeminipamagman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 40
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    My brother in law said “why do we care that we’re being tracked, again?” I’d enjoy reading some of your reasons.
    Not sure who you’re asking, but I have something, if you like.
    “You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.”

    This is a very dangerous mindset. The argument is frequently raised in debates by pro-big brother hawks, and doing so is dangerous, cowardly, and dishonest. There are at least four good reasons to reject this argument, solidly and uncompromisingly.

    The rules may change.

    Once the invasive surveillance is in place to enforce rules with which you agree, the ruleset that is being enforced could change in ways with which you don’t agree at all. But then it is too late to protest the surveillance. For example, you may agree to cameras in every home to prevent domestic violence (“and domestic violence only”), but the next day a new political force in power could decide that Christianity will be illegal and they will use the existing home cameras to enforce their new rules. Any surveillance must be regarded in terms of how it can be abused by a power worse than today’s. 

    It’s not you who determine if you have something to fear.

    You may consider yourself law-abidingly white as snow, but that won’t matter. What does matter is whether you set off the red flags in the mostly automated surveillance. Where bureaucrats look at your life in microscopic detail through a long paper tube to search for patterns. When you stop your car at the main prostitution street for two hours every Friday night, the Social Services Authority will draw certain conclusions from that data point and won’t care about the fact that you help your elderly grandmother–who lives there–with her weekly groceries. When you frequently stop at a certain bar on your way driving home from work, the Department of Driving Licenses will draw certain conclusions as to your eligibility for future driving licenses–regardless of the fact that you think the bar serves the world’s best reindeer meatballs and have never had a single beer there. People will stop thinking in terms of what is legal and start acting in self-censorship to avoid being red-flagged out of pure self-preservation. It doesn’t matter that somebody in the right might possibly and eventually be cleared–after having been investigated for six months, you will have lost custody of your children, your job, and possibly your home.

    Laws must be broken for society to progress.

    A society which can enforce all of its laws will stop dead in its tracks. The mindset of ‘rounding up criminals is good for society’ is a very dangerous one, for in hindsight it may turn out that the criminals were the ones in the moral right. Barely over 200 years ago, if you promoted republican ideals, you were criminal. It is an absolute necessity to be able to break unjust laws for society to progress and question its own values, in order to learn from mistakes and move on as a society.

    Privacy is a basic human need.

    Implying that only the dishonest people have need of any privacy ignores a basic property of the human psyche and sends a creepy message of strong discomfort. We have a fundamental need for privacy. I lock the door when I go to the mens’ room, despite the fact that nothing secret happens in there. I just want to keep that activity to myself, I have a fundamental need to do so, and any society must respect that fundamental need for privacy. In every society that doesn’t, citizens have responded with subterfuge and created their own private areas out of reach of the governmental surveillance–not because they are criminal, but because doing so is a fundamental human need.

    racerhomie3lostkiwione more thingolsmuthuk_vanalingamHyperealityredgeminipamike1jbishop1039jbishop1039
  • Reply 13 of 40
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    maestro64 said:
    Do not worry gatorguy will be here soon to say this was mistake,
    No he won’t, because this isn’t a mistake. Google just admitted it by changing their documentation. 

    Googleguy doesn’t attempt to deny anything that is so obviously true. In an open-and-shut case like this one, he will spend his time trying to prove that Apple is doing the same thing. 

    If Google is caught with its hands in the cookie jar, then the best tactic is distraction. 


    lostkiwiwilliamlondonrazorpitequality72521watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 14 of 40
    blackgts200218blackgts200218 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    My brother in law said “why do we care that we’re being tracked, again?” I’d enjoy reading some of your reasons.
    Look at it this way, maybe even ask your brother in law and report back yourself.... what if the cameras on your phone actually were on all of the time and we were being watched? Why do we care that we are being watched again?
    edited August 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 40
    BluntBlunt Posts: 220member
    Not a thing about this in the Dutch media which is quite annoying. If Apple has a minor problem they are all over it but with stuff like this they don't give a shit.
    redgeminipawatto_cobraviclauyyc
  • Reply 16 of 40
    kevin kee said:
    lkrupp said:
    So Google actually admits it and now is updating the fine print to inform you of it. Nice.
    Makes you wonder what else they didn't acknowledge or tell us in their fine print, well until someone discovered them.
    It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last.  Google is a habitual line-stepper.
    Rayz2016 said:
    maestro64 said:
    Do not worry gatorguy will be here soon to say this was mistake, Google never really did this since there EULA says they do not do these things.

    Anyone surprised this was going on.
    Actually, yes. 

    In light of the mess Facebook got itself into, and the fact that Google was already found guilty of breaching trust when they took advantage of a Safari bug to track users when they’d specifically requested not to Be tracked:

    https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2012/08/google-will-pay-225-million-settle-ftc-charges-it-misrepresented

    then I’m surprised they would think that something like this would not be discovered eventually. The only conclusion I can draw is that the company genuinely believed that it is okay to deceive people, and that everyone else would think so too. 


    I wish the FTC would say, “Okay, you just got caught doing in principle the same thing we fined you $225 million for.  This time, your fine is $225 billion.”
    edited August 2018 redgeminipawatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 40
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,817member
    Rayz2016 said:
    maestro64 said:
    Do not worry gatorguy will be here soon to say this was mistake,
    No he won’t, because this isn’t a mistake. Google just admitted it by changing their documentation. 

    Googleguy doesn’t attempt to deny anything that is so obviously true.
    You are 100% correct. I don't try to mislead you or anyone anyone else, nor do I avoid answering an inconvenient question even when framed with insults. That all of us could try doing the same, eh?

    Rehashing yesterdays story AFAICT. I guess the new part is Google modifying their docs to clearly inform users there's more than one setting involved? Well that is a bit better, but still doesn't fix all the user settings confusion. 

    Like I said from the beginning, it's wrong to mislead users and spread toggle settings for the same general function around to different menus, and in Google's case purposefully so IMO. I can't see any need to do so outside of the OS provider hoping you don't notice and leave stuff enabled that they'd prefer you left alone to begin with. 

    Should I bother I asking you if Apple "Location Services" set to OFF would also be somewhat deceptive if, similar to Google Android, it didn't actually turn off all location logging from that point forward, actually requiring a visit to a different menu to really turn it off? You wouldn't answer yesterday if it does and assume from your non-answer that it does not, but I honestly don't know for sure, nor whether you'd consider it wrong anyway if it too actually required another toggle to really turn it off despite what common sense might tell you.

    Apple says you can "disable Location Services at any time. To do so, open Settings on your iPhone, tap Privacy, tap Location Services, and either turn off the global Location Services switch or turn off the individual location switch of each location-aware app or feature by setting it to “Never”. Is that true? Does it really turn off all location logging from then on? 

    As I'm reading it there might be numerous toggle settings needed for you to accomplish the same result. At least two on your iPhone, another for your linked Apple Watch, and another in Safari. Do you own an Apple TV? Don't forget one there too. They're all on by default.

    ...but serious Apple user knows all about those settings and taken great pains to disable every tracking mechanism on his/her Apple device.  That's it, Apple cannot and will not track your location anymore right? OOPS!
    Apple too, like Google, appears to acknowledge that even if you've successfully located and to the best of your knowledge turned off all settings that allow your location to be tracked they may still do so under certain circumstances in order "To deliver relevant search suggestions and news" (Isn't that Google's claim?)  Please do jump in if what I think is accurate is not. You're the experienced Apple expert, not me and I don't want to be accused of spreading misinformation.
     
    Would it be disingenuous to describe one company confusing things like this "a blatant breach of their users’ request" while completely ignoring comment about another's multiple settings needed to accomplish the same and hoping no one notices?  

    Suggestion: Don't goad me into commenting if you don't want the result. 
    edited August 2018 jbishop1039muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 18 of 40
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,817member
    maestro64 said:
    Do not worry gatorguy will be here soon to say this was mistake...
    You must really REALLY enjoy my comments if you're now wanting me to repost the ones I already made about this yesterday and that you yourself read and added to. So why would I say this was a mistake now when I didn't yesterday? 

    I was first one on AI to mention it, and before it was even an AI story, that it's deceptive when Google (or any other company) designs their settings menu to obfuscate which are required to turn various services on/off, completely so and not just in part, or use vague descriptions IMO meant to further confuse users who do stumble upon it about what the proper setting should be to get the desired result.

    Further, if encouraging users to take responsibility for their own privacy is the goal why are various tracking services on by default when you get your new smartphone? Shouldn't opt-in be required rather than opt-out? 
    https://forums.appleinsider.com/discussion/206725/google-apps-continue-to-track-users-even-if-location-services-are-disabled/p1

    I'll make the same suggestion for you as I did for @Rayz2016 ; : If you'd rather not see my comments don't beg for them. 
    edited August 2018 jbishop1039muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 19 of 40
    airnerdairnerd Posts: 617member
    How about if I just delete all Google apps from my iPhone.  Does THAT stop them tracking me?  I honestly can't tell anymore because of the underhanded tactics they apparently pull.   Then when caught red handed with indisputable proof, they change their fine print.  

    Such a shady, underhanded, piece of trash company Alphabet is.  I don't do anything that anyone tracking me would care about, but to make it so convoluted just to be left alone is reprehensible.  
    redgeminipamagman1979watto_cobrabaconstang
  • Reply 20 of 40
    First, redefine evil.  Then do whatever you please.
    monstrositytallest skilmagman1979watto_cobra
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