How to stop Google tracking your location for real

Google is in hot water at the minute, amid news that the search engine giant will track you even when you’ve told it not to. If you turn off Location History, your location data is still recorded, and stored in a section of your account called My Activity. In other words, switch off Location History and your location is still being tracked…

If you want to stop Google tracking your whereabouts once and for all, here’s how. Follow our handy step-by-step guide and stop Google being the helicopter parent it has morphed into.

How to stop Google tracking your location

So, you’re as shaken as us by the news that Google is tracking your location even with Location History off. Here’s how to remedy that…

  1. Head to the Activity controls dashboard. 
  2. Turn Web & App Activity off. You’ll get a little pop-up from Google, asking if you want to Pause Web and App Activity. Click Pause to confirm this. 
  3. Underneath the Web & App Activity, you’ll see the Location History box. Click Pause (if you haven’t already). 
  4. If you want to delete your (already-tracked) Location History on Google Timeline, select Manage Activity and then click on the bin icon in the bottom right of the screen.

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Now, you should have freed yourself entirely from Google’s dubious location tracking services.

If you’re left scratching your head as to why turning off Location History doesn’t obscure your location from Google entirely, the answer is simple: Google uses your location for its other apps and services, and these entities automatically store your time-stamped location data without asking. Google is, ostensibly, trying to be useful (although it’s well known that such data is valuable to the firm’s advertisers).

READ NEXT: Google admits to tracking its users’ locations

The problematic practice was first unearthed by UC Berkeley researcher K. Shankari, who found she was still being asked to rate places she’d visited, despite having turned Location History off (and not using Google Maps). The information was collected via a roster of data sources, including GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and others, all of which provided a surprisingly accurate insight into where Shankari was, and what she was doing.

“I am not opposed to Google, or to background location tracking in principle,” Shankari explains. “But I also think that tracking people without their consent and without proper controls in place is creepy and wrong, and judging from the furore about social media data collection, a lot of people agree,” she continued.

Shankari’s is righteous anger; many people are deeply uneasy about the thought of the search engine giant following their every move. In an age of rampant data misuse (see: Trump’s election, Cambridge Analytica), users are right to be wary of offering theirs up needlessly. Particularly when they think they’ve already shut down Location Tracking.

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