Story at a glance

  • Google Location History, introduced in 2009, logs users’ locations through their smartphones.
  • Location History was designed to be helpful, and Google is able to provide a better service to its users because of it, the tech company says.
  • The feature is turned off by default because of the privacy risks associated with collecting geolocation data, but it’s extremely easy for users to accidentally turn Location History on.

A little-known Google feature has tracked your location for years.

Google's Location History feature, an account-wide service that logs your movements through your smartphone, has stored the real-world comings and goings of millions of users since it was introduced in 2009.

While the knowledge that your movements are being monitored by one of the world's largest tech companies may be unsettling, Google says Location History was designed to be helpful.

The company says it can provide a better service if it knows where you've been, giving you more detailed commute advice, recommendations based on places you've visited and more relevant advertisements.

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Still, if this news makes you want to rush to turn Google Location History off, you're not alone, and there are some major privacy risks to having your location data stored online. That's why Google has said its Location History feature is switched off by default and can only be activated with a user's permission.

But it's extremely easy to accidentally enable Google Location History, particularly by using Google maps.

Here's how to turn Google Location History off.

First, go to myactivity.google.com and use your Google credentials to sign into your account. After you've signed in, select "Location History" and toggle it to the "off" setting. 

This, however, will only pause your Google Location History and won't delete any of your past data, which can be accessed at maps.google.com/timeline. This, too, can be deleted in your location settings.

Even when Location History is paused, your location may still be saved to your Google account when using other Google sites, apps and services like Google Maps. It may also be included in your photos, depending on your camera app settings.

To truly stop Google from tracking you, you'll also need to turn off Web and App Activity Tracking, which can also be done here.

Editor's note: This story was updated on 11/12

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Published on Nov 11, 2021