It bears noting that unless you're involved in a murder investigation, Google's location tracking has largely altruistic motives: providing personalized experiences, location-oriented recommendations and so on. In a move that harks back to Black Mirror's Arkangel, Alphabet's child company is defying its customers' wishes and monitoring their whereabouts, even when unsuspecting users have explicitly requested that it doesn't.
The Web & App Activity toggle will fully disable Google location tracking, but good luck finding it unless you know exactly where to look. If you turn Location History off, you will receive a message saying "None of your Google apps will be able to store location data in Location History". This, I acquiesced, was a necessary evil - I'd surrender my data for free access to efficient routes around London. Pausing Location History on your Google account webpage provides a prompt that informs you that "some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps". A little creepy - and incriminating - but hell, if you've sanctioned it, who cares, right? That popup states that, when active, the setting 'saves the things you do on Google sites, apps, and services ... and associated information, like location'.
Don't believe it? Check your My Activity page on Google, then your Location History.
This isn't a barefaced lie; your location data isn't stored in Location History. So you're still being tracked.
Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.
Google a year ago faced scrutiny over a similar issue when reports emerged that the tech giant had been collecting Android users' location data using the addresses of nearby cellphone towers. Researchers, and the publication's own tests, were able to confirm this is the current situation for Android and iOS users.
Some of the examples given by the AP include the Google Maps app, which takes a snapshot of your location as soon as you open it and even completely unrelated searches like "chocolate chip cookies" which "pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude" and save it to your Google account. "When did I agree to this?"; "How does Maps get the location?"; "How does Maps convert the location to a business name?" came a few of her questions on a Berkeley blog post.
As stated above, disabling these two settings will keep Google out of most of your locations - but it may not stop the company entirely, especially for Android users.
The key to success - and privacy - is to disable the Web & App Activity setting. Turn off both "Web & App Activity" and "Location History".
As for Shankari, she's most indignant about the opacity of the whole system; "I am not opposed to background location tracking in principle", she clarified. He's calling for policies that give users more control over their data and levy stiff penalties on firms that violate user trust and expectations. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was recently held to account by the US Congress regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It says it can measure how well a campaign drove foot traffic with data pulled from Google users' location histories.
Visit https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity, then select the Activity controls option on the sidebar. That can limit the effectiveness of the Google Assistant, the company's digital concierge.
Ultimately, it's unclear whether Google will do anything about this finding from the AP. "To me, it's something people should know", he said.