Just last month, tech giant Google took a hefty fine for abusing its dominance in the Android ecosystem. Now, however, a report from Associated Press tells that Google and its services are continuously tracking you even while you location sharing is turned off.
While your location history is paused, some Google apps collect (and store) time-stamped data without your explicit permission. When you look at apps like Maps and Google search, your location data is being collected by just opening the app or even when performing searches that don’t have to do with location.
However, Google says that its policies are clear and there are multiple ways in which Google may use location to improve your “experience.”
“We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time,” according to Google.
The stored location data is also used to target ads, and buyers have the ability to narrow down the audience by targetting a specific location.
Moreover, the tech giant confirmed that it does track your location even with location turned off after facing criticism from left and right.
For users who would like to manage their location data, Google has updated a page titled ‘Manage or delete your location history’ in their support forum which states that “this setting [location history] does not affect other location services on your device. Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”
Before the modification, the page said, “with Location history off, the places you go are no longer stored.”
The page backs this irresponsible behavior of Google by saying that your location history helps you get better results and recommendations on Google products.
In a statement to the AP, Google justified the update by saying, ” We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers.”
The update in the support page has made it clear that Google has lied about its data collection policies and collects even when users have revoked the permissions for it.
This revelation raises many questions about Google’s policies, and this is not the first time when Google has found itself surrounded by the allegations.
In January, the Quartz published an article which states that the data recorded by Google from your smartphone is staggering. The recorded data includes the type of movements your phone thinks you are doing, GPS coordinates of your phone, GPS elevation, mac address. The sad part about Google’s tracking is that most users are unaware of the fact that their every movement is tracked by Google even when they have not granted the permissions for it.
Following this privacy violation practice by Google, a man name Napoleon Patacsil from San Diego filed a lawsuit against the tech giant for the same reason.
This lawsuit was filed in a federal court in San Francisco where his attorneys argued that “Google is violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the state’s constitutional right to privacy.”
They are seeking class-action status for this lawsuit including both “Android Class” and “iPhone Class” for millions of people across the United States who were tracked by Google in spite of turning off their Location History.
However, it is going to take months before the judge could declare the lawsuit eligible for class-action.
Meanwhile, lawyers from the Electronic Privacy Information Center have written a 3-page letter to the FTC stating that Google’s practices are clearly violating the 2011 consent order.
According to the order, Google consented not to misrepresent facts related to “(1) the purposes for which it collects and uses covered information, and (2) the extent to which consumers may exercise control over the collection, use, or disclosure of covered information.”
Until the whole story of Google tracking user’s location came into light, the company policy’s simply stated that the Location History can be turned off at any time and no history would be saved as long as it is off.
However, this turned out to be false and the worst part is that the tech company has simply chosen to edit its policies instead of stopping this practice.
On last Friday, Google quietly edited the policy on its website clarifying “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”
While we await the outcome of this lawsuit, you can stop Google from tracking your location for more privacy.