If you think turning off your “Location History” will stop Google from tracking you, you’ve got another thing coming. The Associated Press reported that even with location tracking being set off, Google still uses a bunch of different apps to keep your location in check. Even though Google’s Location History setting states that turning it off will prevent your location from being tracked, there are different ways that Google has managed to bypass that.
Google’s Location History – What Does it Really Do?
Everyone knows that you can “pause” your Location History on Google and that this is supposed to stop Google from storing information on the places that you go to. In fact, Google’s support page even states,
“With Location History Off, the places you go are no longer stored.”
The problem is turning off your Location History doesn’t stop Google from using other apps to track your location. All turning Google’s Location History off does is stop Google from adding your movements to its “timeline”. That being said, your location markers will still be collected and tracked by Google. What this means is that every time you access Google Maps, perform a search on Google, or even get weather updates on your phone, Google snapshots your location. Both Android and iPhone users have these records stored.
Why Does Google Track Your Location?
The most common theory behind Google’s obsession with tracking your location is data. The more data Google has, the more it can use that to provide companies with better advertisement opportunities. In fact, Google has specifically stated that location records stored in the “My Activity” settings are used to target ads. Ad buyers have the option of targeting specific locations, albeit they have to pay Google a pretty penny to do so.
How to Stop Google from Tracking your Location
The AP investigation did show that there is a way to block Google from tracking your location, but it does involve some digging into Google’s settings. If you disable the “Web & App Activity” setting, Google will stop storing your location markers through other apps. You can also manually delete your location data by going to myactivity.google.com and removing geo-stamped entries. This could be time-consuming for you unless you want to get rid of all of the entries simultaneously. The Associated Press has a great article about how to delete your data from Google’s databases.
How to Stay Anonymous Online
If you’re worried about your data and your online anonymity, the best way to make sure you’re protecting your information is by using a VPN. A VPN should be used as an extra security measure to disabling the “Web & App Activity” and the “Location History” settings.
What A VPN does is re-route your traffic through a secure intermediary server. This makes sure that no third party can view your data, as all of your data gets encrypted by the VPN. You can learn more about how a VPN can keep you secure online here.
For a VPN service provider that is tried-and-tested with keeping your data private, I suggest using ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN uses military grade encryptions to hide your data from prying eyes. It also has 5 VPN protocols you can use for extra security while online. With its 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee, ExpressVPN lets you test out their services before you commit to their subscription.
How to Turn off “Web & App Activity”
- Sign-in to your Google account on a browser
- Access your account settings in a browser: Google Account > Personal Info & Privacy > Go To My Activity > Activity Controls < Web & App Activity.
- Toggle off Web & App Activity.
- Go to Google Settings
- Access Google Account > Data & Personalization > Web & App Activity
- Toggle off Web & App Activity
Google’s Location History Tracking – Final Thoughts
As you can see, Google has hidden the “Web & App Activity” setting in a place where most users won’t think to look. In fact, they’ve also been super vague about what this setting does, stating that it “Saves your activity on Google sites and apps to give you faster searches, better recommendations, and more personalized experiences”. Finding out exactly what activities are stored requires even more digging on your end, and can usually be seen after you go through a few “Learn More” buttons. It’s a scary world we live in where most of the service providers we trust on a daily basis are this vague about how they collect our data. Thankfully, by using a VPN, you can overcome most of these issues and use the internet with anonymity.