Google records user locations against privacy settings

Avatar By Le Williams | 2 years ago

An Associated Press investigation has discovered many Google services on Android devices and iPhones stores user location data notwithstanding privacy settings that say it will prevent Google from doing so.

Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau, has stated, “Storing location data in violation of a user’s preferences was wrong”.

A researcher from Mayer’s lab confirmed the AP’s findings on multiple Android devices. Additionally, the AP conducted its own research on several iPhones that found the same outcome.

“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,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to the AP. “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.”

Tech titans are under increasing scrutiny over their data practices, following a series of privacy scandals at Facebook and new data-privacy rules recently adopted by the European Union.

In 2017, Quartz found that Google was tracking Android users by collecting the addresses of nearby cellphone towers even if all location services were off. Google changed the practice and insisted it never recorded the data anyway.

Experts say Google’s insistence on tracking its users’ locations stems from its drive to boost advertising revenue. Purportedly, the company is pushing further into such location-aware tracking to drive ad revenue.

At a Google Marketing Live summit in July, Google executives unveiled a new tool that uses ads to boost in-person store visits. It says it can measure how well a campaign drove foot traffic with data pulled from Google users’ location histories.