Google acknowledges it tracks users even with location setting disabled

Google acknowledges it tracks users even with location setting disabled

It comes just one day after AP revealed in a report that Google did indeed still track users when the Location History function was turned off.

Google has admitted that it tracks users' location history even after they turn off location sharing.

The clarification is mentioned on a Location History help page, which Google changed on Thursday. It now says that turning off location history does not affect services like Google Location Services and Find My Device.

Google has also clarified that some location data may still be saved as part of a user's activity on Google Search and Google Maps.

Previously, this page claimed that "with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored".

The change appeared to have been made to Google's website midday Thursday. If that setting is paused, the company still tracks where you go, it just won't record the places you've been in your Google Maps timeline, the report said. "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".

It does not stop Google's collection of other location markers. "I can't think off the top of my head of any major online service that architected their location privacy settings in a similar way". AP's findings were later confirmed by computer-science researchers at Princeton University. It can charge advertisers more if they want to narrow ad delivery to people who've visited certain locations. Search, Maps, and Google Location Services are explicitly named but there might be others as well.

The backlash over Google's location history underscores how much scrutiny tech giants are under for their data-hungry business practices.

Several observers also noted that Google is still bound by a 20-year agreement it struck with the Federal Trade Commission in 2011.

Google agreed to that order in response to an FTC investigation of its now-defunct social networking service Google Buzz, which the agency accused of publicly revealing users' most frequent Gmail contacts. While logged in via a web browser to any Google product, select your avatar and then Google Account, and navigate to Manage Your Google Activity.

Google has not changed its location-tracking practices since the investigation was published.

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