How to prevent Google from tracking your location – with 100% certainty

New report finds millions of users are unknowingly having their position tracked

Google track
Google users need to dig into their account settings to stop being tracked
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Google’s privacy settings have come under scrutiny after a study found millions of users were being tracked, even if they had asked not to be.

An investigation launched by the Associated Press (AP) discovered that Google apps, such as Maps and Search, store a user’s location data on a minute-by-minute basis and present it in the form of a timeline for them to view.

But the AP report claims that some apps continue to take a snapshot of where a person has been, even if the user has deactivated the tracking feature or never turned it on in the first place.

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Google gives the impression that users are in control of their data.

“You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored”, it says.

But the Associated Press says this is not always the case. “Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.”

Other media outlets are also questioning Google’s claim that users are in control of their privacy settings. The Maps app logs users’ location information as soon as they launch the software, while Google’s mobile operating system Android gives an “approximation” to a person’s location, The Independent says.

The issue has wide repercussions as the privacy risks aren’t exclusive to devices powered by Google’s mobile system Android. Anyone who downloads an app developed by the search giant (this includes iPhone users) is at risk of having their location recorded without their consent.

While Location History is disabled by default, the US news group CNBC says that web tracking and location data storage are enabled automatically.

So if users don’t check the My Activity page on their account, they may never know that Google is tracking them, the news site says.

How to stop being tracked

You can prevent Google apps from tracking your location via your account settings.

The Guardian recommends Android users follow the six steps below to prevent Google from logging location data:

  1. Select the device’s settings menu.
  2. Head to Google, then select Google Account.
  3. Tap on the Data and Personalisation button, before selecting Web and App Activity.
  4. Once there, turn off Web and App Activity.
  5. Go back to Data and Personalisation, and select Location History.
  6. Turn off each device that’s associated with your Google account.

The newspaper’s guide for Apple users is a little different. If you own an iPhone, follow these four steps:

  1. Go to your Google account in your web browser of choice and sign in.
  2. Click on your profile picture and select the Google Account tab.
  3. Tap on Personal Info and Privacy, before selecting My Activity
  4. Select Activity Controls and turn off Web and App Activity.

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