Google collects location data through your phone, even when you specifically tell it not to track you, according to an Associated Press investigation.
The findings, confirmed by researchers at Princeton University, detail how Google services on both Android devices and iPhones store user location data, even when users have a privacy setting that is meant to block Google from tracking.
The company’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off location history at any time. With location history off, the places you go are no longer stored.”
But it appears that it doesn’t matter if the device turned off, as Google still will store the data.
“Even with location history paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking,” the report said.
Some examples listed in the report include how Google stores a snapshot of your location just for opening the Maps app. Daily weather updates also track where you are, while Google searches that don’t have a location mentioned, still pinpoint the users’ exact latitude and longitude and save it to the user’s Google account.
The finding highlights a major privacy issue that affects some two billion Android users and hundreds of millions of iPhone users worldwide.
“If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘location history,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off,” Jonathan Mayer, a computer scientist at Princeton University, told AP. “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”
In a statement, Google defended their tracking: “There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including location history, web, and app activity, and through device-level location services. 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 a July report, Google allowed hundreds of outside software developers to scan Gmail inboxes from millions of users who signed up for email-based services.