Most Americans still believe in the ideal of the right to privacy. We want it from our governments, and we want it from other organizations, too, because, sometimes, we simply want to be left alone and in peace.
But, a new report shows that, if you are using a mobile phone, big corporations like Google know where you are pretty much all of the time (hat tip to here for the lead). Ryan Nakashima gives us the disturbing details:
Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.
An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.
Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP’s request.
Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects — such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company lets you “pause” a setting called Location History.
Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. Google’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.”
That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. (It’s possible, although laborious, to delete it .)
To make things even worse, Google logs where you are if you even open your Map app, and other apps pinpoint your location for marketing purposes.
To be fair, sometimes this is useful. I’ll admit to Googling “Caribou Coffee near me” so that I can find a cup of coffee that I like when in an unfamiliar large city. But, if you don’t want to use this type of functionality (and I typically don’t), then you should be able to easily turn this off. But, unfortunately, it’s not so easy.
So, hypothetically, you can turn off all tracking of your location by Google. In practice, though, it’s a big pain in the neck, and, frankly, Google isn’t likely to make it easier because they want to be able to sell advertisements to you.
Your only option for location privacty may be to not carry a mobile phone at all.