Do you ever feel as if someone, or something, is watching you? That primal, instinctual feeling isn’t so much brought on by the fact you’re being shadowed by a big cat anymore – in 2018, it’s big tech.
An Associated Press investigation has revealed that many of Google’s services on iPhones and Android devices track and store your location even if you’ve explicitly stated you do not wish them to do so – a claim confirmed by researchers at Princeton University.
Is Google duping users into giving up their privacy, or are the company’s tracking practices clearly laid out before you?
Google is Watching
On the face of things, Google has historically been upfront when requesting permission to use your location data. Apps such as Google Maps will often prompt you to allow access to if you’re using it. Upon agreeing, the app will record your location data and even enables you to track your daily movements through a timeline feature.
What is also offers, however, is the opportunity for users to pause this tracking process, essentially preventing the tech giant from detailing where you’ve been – it even gives you advice via its support page.
“You can turn off Location History at any time”, it says, adding: “With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”
This, so it transpires, may not be true. The investigation by AP has revealed that even with your location history paused, some apps by Google still automatically store location data; all without your permission. Considering there are around two billion users of Google’s Android OS and hundreds of millions of iPhone users who use it, this could amount to a staggering process of location tracking.
Examples of this tracking are abundant. Your weather app on Android devices knows your location – roughly, it must be said. Additionally, if one were to type in mundane searches looking for products – which require no location data – then you’ll still be pinpointed based on your precise latitude and longitude.