Even if you have'Location History' off, Google often stores your precise location. Here's how to delete those markers and some best-effort practices that keep your location as private as possible. But there's no panacea, because simply connecting to the internet on any device flags an IP address that can be geographically mapped. Smartphones also connect to cell towers, so your carrier knows your general location at all times. Fire up your browser and go to myactivity.google.com.
Video: To comply with EU, Google simplifies privacy settings. Google has updated its help page about turning Location History on or off to more accurately reflect that it actually does sometimes store the places you go even with the setting toggled to off. The change was made on Thursday and follows a report last week by the Associated Press that found turning off Location History on a smartphone continues to track users' movements. The help page previously stated that: "You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored."
Hundreds of popular apps are collecting location data that they claim is anonymous, but further analysis shows it can be easily linked to specific users. These apps include ones like the Weather Channel, GasBuddy and WeatherBug, many of which inform users that they collect location data, but not necessarily how the data will be used, an investigation from the New York Times found. The findings have raised both privacy and security concerns as advocates say many users are unaware how much they're being tracked. The location data was as precise as within a few yards and was found to update with new information thousands of times each day. In one case, data was collected from a child's phone The Times gained access to a database from a company that included information from more than a million phones in the New York area.
Apple also deserves credit for storing its own records of your location only on your device itself; unlike Google, Apple doesn't maintain a profile of your location anywhere on its servers. That's one of many reasons Apple has earned a reputation for better privacy practices than its chief rival (although some critics contend it could be doing much better). As this week's Google privacy snafu reminds us, though, Apple doesn't fully control what other apps (such as Google Maps) do with your location data once you've granted them permission to track it. So as long as you're allowing tracking, your privacy is at risk. The good news is, there is a straightforward way to prevent this, which is to turn off location services altogether.