clarified that it does in fact collect users’ location
data, even if the user’s Location History setting is
turned off. The admission comes days after a report
uncovered the Silicon Valley giant stored the data from
smartphones regardless of setting.
revised a help page about its Location History setting,
clarifying that the setting "does not affect other
location services on your device" and that
"some location data may be saved as part of your
activity on other services, like Search and Maps."
Thursday’s edit, the page stated "the places you
go are no longer stored" with the Location History
setting shut off.
change came three days after the Associated Press
published an investigation revealing several Google apps
and services stored user location data regardless of the
Location History setting.
a statement to this news organization, a Google
spokesperson said, "We have been updating the
explanatory language about Location History to make it
more consistent and clear across our platforms and help
centers." The spokesperson did not address why
Google continued collecting location data even when the
user chose to turn off its location history.
Associated Press report alarmed privacy researchers, as
collecting continuous location data may carry privacy
risks, with one calling Google’s practice
"disingenuous." The Associated Press
corroborated their findings with computer science
researchers at Princeton University before publication.
takes snapshots of the user’s Location History when
the Maps app is opened, the weather widget on Android
phones updates and during some Google searches that have
nothing to do with location, according to the Associated
Press. After the snapshot, Google saves it to the user’s
order to turn off snapshots from Google apps and
services, users need to turn off both Location History
and Web & App Activity settings, according to the
Associated Press started its investigation after a
graduate researcher at UC Berkeley noticed that her
Android phone’s Google Maps app wanted her to rate a
shopping trip to Kohl’s despite her having shut off
Location History. The researcher, K. Shankari, wrote
about her discovery and her personal questions in a blog
post on a UC Berkeley research website.
collection for web browsing and social media is
currently under intense scrutiny, but smartphone sensors
can be the source of even more privacy sensitive data,
collected completely without human interaction,"
wrote Shankari. "Issues around consent, control and
trust are currently fuzzy in this domain due to the
blurring of boundaries between the phone operating
system and proprietary services. … How can we truly
know what closed source software is actually collecting
and when it is doing so?"