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Thread: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

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    Avalon Member dynamo's Avatar
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    Default Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    August 13, 2018


    By Andrea Germanos

    (CD) — Android and iPhone users may be under the impression that Google is not tracking their location data if they’ve turned off “Location History” on their devices.
    After all, the Google support page says, “With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

    But a new Associated Press investigation showed how that is not really the case. Some Google apps still automatically collect users’ location markers—information it can use to benefit its advertising revenue. To wit:
    Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude—accurate to the square foot—and save it to your Google account.
    The problem lies with “Web & App Activity” setting, which is on by default, and “stores a variety of information from Google apps and websites to your Google account.” This information is stored under “My Activity.”

    To illustrate the location data still collected when a user’s Location History is paused but the “Web & App Activity” setting is still on, AP displayed a map of locations visited by a Princeton postdoctoral researcher and Android user over a several-day period based on data that was still saved to his Google account.

    Getting rid of those location markers, AP reported, is “a painstaking process.” Although users can find them at myactivity.google.com, “they’re typically scattered under several different headers, many of which are unrelated to location,” AP reported.

    The new investigation comes a month after House Republicans sent a letter to Larry Page, the chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, as well as Apple CEO Tim Cook, about their privacy practices, including location tracking.

    “If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off,” Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau, told AP. “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”

    By Andrea Germanos / Creative Commons / Common Dreams / Report a typo
    Sourced from The Anti-Media

    Source: https://www.activistpost.com/2018/08...urned-off.html
    Last edited by dynamo; 14th August 2018 at 00:19. Reason: formatting

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    Canada Avalon Member Spellbound's Avatar
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    Default Re: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    Google is evil. It's up there with Facebook and Microsoft. Though, admittedly, I prefer Chrome over other browsers (I may be a pagan, but I refuse to have a Facebook account).

    Dave - Toronto

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    Avalon Member uzn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    Yeah, but if you disable "Web-and App-Activity" then it´s off. No big deal.

    Link to the disable tracking option:
    https://myaccount.google.com/activitycontrols?pli=1
    Last edited by uzn; 14th August 2018 at 17:51.

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    Default Re: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    forget Google then start with cell/smart phones;

    one of my friends in the UK whose car broke down completely on the motorway yrs. ago and after phoning the British automobile club was told to keep her cell phone turned on so they could find her exact location- she was shortly afterwards qickly tracked and found-

    a recent murder in obscure vineyards in my area was solved by tracking cell/SmartPhone use in these obscure vineyards by the rapist/murderer on day/approx. time of murder-

    if my extensively read sources are correct anyone, anywhere can be traced by cell phone activity at any time (including past use)...

    and: even if your Mobile is turned off and you're close enough to the phone's mike your conversation can be heard;

    the only way around this is to take the chip out of your phone-

    please be well all-

    Larry

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    Default Re: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    Quote Posted by uzn (here)
    Yeah, but if you disable "Web-and App-Activity" then it´s off. No big deal.

    Link to the disable tracking option:
    https://myaccount.google.com/activitycontrols?pli=1
    Ummm the OP and a recently released expose on FOX News would suggest otherwise (and the guy proves it with both an Android & an iPhone). You think it's "off"... (it ain't!)

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    Great Britain Avalon Member Mari's Avatar
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    Default Re: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    Well, I don't do 'smart' stuff (at the moment anyway) although I fear the time will come when there'll be NO choice in the matter, so I only have a basic phone. That's all I need, thank you. Can I still be tracked?
    NTS, I don't do FB or other social media either & I use 'Ixquick' as my browser - just a good as the 'other' one!

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    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    Quote Posted by Mari (here)
    Well, I don't do 'smart' stuff (at the moment anyway) although I fear the time will come when there'll be NO choice in the matter, so I only have a basic phone. That's all I need, thank you. Can I still be tracked?
    NTS, I don't do FB or other social media either & I use 'Ixquick' as my browser - just a good as the 'other' one!
    Right, that's you and me both.

    I have a very old, cheap and simple dumbphone that I can make voice calls from if I need to. 99% of the time, it's never on. But it does tell me the time if I look carefully in the right place.

    If I want to take photos, I use a camera. (A real one!)

    My Mac computer and OS are nearly 10 years old, but they work just fine.

    The computer webcam is permanently covered over with a piece of tape.

    I have a simple but very robust 30 year old vehicle, with no engine management system, no GPS, and no way it could ever be commandeered remotely unless someone physically jumped into the cab.

    I have a YouTube account, and use Skype extensively, but nothing else. (But all readers do note: Skype is definitely not secure.)

    I'm very happy in my backwoods backwardness. If I lived in a metropolis, though, and worked in business, I do know I'd probably have to have at least an e-mail friendly tablet that I could take everywhere.

    But if anything, I'm living proof (as are many others reading this!) that smartphones and other such state-of-the-art devices are NOT NOT NOT necessary in order to operate pretty well.


    Quote Posted by Mari (here)
    Can I still be tracked?
    Your phone company can track you via signal triangulation, just like in the old '24' TV series with Kiefer Sutherland as agent Jack Bauer. But that's VERY slow, rough and inaccurate (as it was in 24!) compared with GPS tracking, which at a military level might even know which chair you're sitting in in your house.
    Last edited by Bill Ryan; 14th August 2018 at 22:38.

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    Default Re: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    Same here. A nearly 10 years old Mac with an older OS, a flip phone I can text on and I too take pics with a real camera, which I find better than any smart phone out there. The excess battery power needed for smart phones isn't good for the body and the trade-offs to access excessive info isn't worth the cost or the hassle, the loss of conscious control, no matter the level.

    I liked the very small, thin Kodak digital, mini pocket cameras, a bit larger than a credit card, that cost around $30 to $40 a few years back. I took thousands of pics and hundreds of videos in 720p with each one of them, until I wore each one out. I still have a couple of those older Kodak minis, but use a small camera with 20 mp quality now.

    If I ever am given, win or inherit a newer car I'll trade it in or donate it in order to buy a much older vehicle, pay any bills ahead of time and invest or save wisely.

    While being impervious to hacking by any remote device, the older cars and trucks are easier to work on, the upkeep is cheaper and with a little knowledge about how to improve gas mileage they can be very efficient.

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    Default Re: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    LOL My oldest Mac is a G4 (2001) and STILL going brilliantly. (I lie; my oldest Mac is a 1986 SE, wrapped in plastic in the wardrobe; it still goes). The MacBook is same model vintage as Bill's. The PC is virtually new but running Win 7.

    My phone is a dead simple Samsung 2008 flip top. It can take pictures but that thing called a camera does it so much better. It can txt, too! But talking is so much faster. It's my "emergency communication" device.
    I read books (made of paper).

    No social media accounts AT ALL. Zip, nada.

    None of my cars are under 10 years old, (a 2004 RX8, 1996 Astina, 1994 MX5, and I'll never sell my beloved 72' VW Bug until I drop. (and it still goes, too!)

    Gee, the world has not ended!

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    Default Re: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    And I prefer listening to all of the color of talking, even while texting simplifies when simple is warranted.

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    Default Re: Exposed: How Google Still Tracks You Even When “Location History” Is Turned Off

    AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not


    https://apnews.com/828aefab64d4411ba...like-it-or-not

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — 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.

    For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a “timeline” that maps out your daily movements.

    Click image for larger version

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    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 .)

    For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like “chocolate chip cookies,” or “kids science kits,” pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude — accurate to the square foot — and save it to your Google account.

    The privacy issue affects some two billion users of devices that run Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search.

    Storing location data in violation of a user’s preferences is wrong, said Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission’s enforcement bureau. A researcher from Mayer’s lab confirmed the AP’s findings on multiple Android devices; the AP conducted its own tests on several iPhones that found the same behavior.

    “If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off,” Mayer said. “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”

    Google says it is being perfectly clear.

    “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.”

    Google’s explanation did not convince several lawmakers.

    Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia told the AP it is “frustratingly common” for technology companies “to have corporate practices that diverge wildly from the totally reasonable expectations of their users,” and urged policies that would give users more control of their data. Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey called for “comprehensive consumer privacy and data security legislation” in the wake of the AP report.

    To stop Google from saving these location markers, the company says, users can turn off another setting, one that does not specifically reference location information. Called “Web and App Activity” and enabled by default, that setting stores a variety of information from Google apps and websites to your Google account.

    When paused, it will prevent activity on any device from being saved to your account. But leaving “Web & App Activity” on and turning “Location History” off only prevents Google from adding your movements to the “timeline,” its visualization of your daily travels. It does not stop Google’s collection of other location markers.

    You can delete these location markers by hand, but it’s a painstaking process since you have to select them individually, unless you want to delete all of your stored activity.

    You can see the stored location markers on a page in your Google account at myactivity.google.com, although they’re typically scattered under several different headers, many of which are unrelated to location.

    To demonstrate how powerful these other markers can be, the AP created a visual map of the movements of Princeton postdoctoral researcher Gunes Acar, who carried an Android phone with Location history off, and shared a record of his Google account.

    The map includes Acar’s train commute on two trips to New York and visits to The High Line park, Chelsea Market, Hell’s Kitchen, Central Park and Harlem. To protect his privacy, The AP didn’t plot the most telling and frequent marker — his home address.

    Huge tech companies 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. Last year, the business news site 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.

    Critics say Google’s insistence on tracking its users’ locations stems from its drive to boost advertising revenue.

    “They build advertising information out of data,” said Peter Lenz, the senior geospatial analyst at Dstillery, a rival advertising technology company. “More data for them presumably means more profit.”

    The AP learned of the issue from K. Shankari, a graduate researcher at UC Berkeley who studies the commuting patterns of volunteers in order to help urban planners. She noticed that her Android phone prompted her to rate a shopping trip to Kohl’s, even though she had turned Location History off.

    “So how did Google Maps know where I was?” she asked in a blog post .

    The AP wasn’t able to recreate Shankari’s experience exactly. But its attempts to do so revealed Google’s tracking. The findings disturbed her.

    “I am not opposed to background location tracking in principle,” she said. “It just really bothers me that it is not explicitly stated.”

    Google offers a more accurate description of how Location History actually works in a place you’d only see if you turn it off — a popup that appears when you “pause” Location History on your Google account webpage . There the company notes that “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps.”

    Google offers additional information in a popup that appears if you re-activate the “Web & App Activity” setting — an uncommon action for many users, since this setting is on by default. That popup states that, when active, the setting “saves the things you do on Google sites, apps, and services ... and associated information, like location.”

    Warnings when you’re about to turn Location History off via Android and iPhone device settings are more difficult to interpret. On Android, the popup explains that “places you go with your devices will stop being added to your Location History map.” On the iPhone, it simply reads, “None of your Google apps will be able to store location data in Location History.”

    The iPhone text is technically true if potentially misleading. With Location History off, Google Maps and other apps store your whereabouts in a section of your account called “My Activity,” not “Location History.”

    Since 2014, Google has let advertisers track the effectiveness of online ads at driving foot traffic , a feature that Google has said relies on user location histories.

    The company is pushing further into such location-aware tracking to drive ad revenue, which rose 20 percent last year to $95.4 billion. At a Google Marketing Live summit in July, Google executives unveiled a new tool called “local campaigns” that dynamically 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.

    Google also says location records stored in My Activity are used to target ads. Ad buyers can target ads to specific locations — say, a mile radius around a particular landmark — and typically have to pay more to reach this narrower audience.

    While disabling “Web & App Activity” will stop Google from storing location markers, it also prevents Google from storing information generated by searches and other activity. That can limit the effectiveness of the Google Assistant, the company’s digital concierge.

    Sean O’Brien, a Yale Privacy Lab researcher with whom the AP shared its findings, said it is “disingenuous” for Google to continuously record these locations even when users disable Location History. “To me, it’s something people should know,” he said.

    ___

    AP Interactive: https://interactives.ap.org/google-location-tracking/

    ___

    Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

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