Google admits it tracks users, but says its to improve experience

Alonzo Simpson
August 19, 2018

"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 reported by the AP on Thursday.

The backlash over Google's location history underscores how much scrutiny tech giants are under for their data-hungry business practices. AP's recent investigation into Google services on Android devices and iPhones that store data pertaining to a user's location even if he/she has opted out once again raised privacy and security concerns and put the company in a tough spot. It also acknowledges that "some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps".

Google says it's trying to be clearer about how it tracks users on certain apps.

There were reports earlier this week that many Google services store users' location data even if the users explicitly used a privacy setting forbidding that. It now says that turning off location history does not affect services like Google Location Services and Find My Device. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones can also track the exact location of a user.

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With the revelation that users can not easily turn off tracking, Google has seemingly found itself in the midst of swirling debates over privacy, particularly with the rollout of the Europe Union's new sweeping privacy disclosure and tracking regulations in late May, and a consumer data protection law passed in California in June.

In order to fully prevent their location from being tracked, users must adjust their "web and app activity" settings as well, the AP found.

Most people take for granted that, nearly by default, their smartphones send their location to manufacturers and app developers unless they explicitly say no. "When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it's off for all devices associated with that Google Account". For now, at least, Google has met the bare minimum legal requirement to not misrepresent what it's collecting from users, whether users agree to its reasons or not.

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