Google acknowledges it tracks users even with location setting disabled

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Google has revised descriptions on its website to clarify that it continues to track users’ whereabouts even after they have turned off their location settings.

The move came after an Associated Press investigation earlier this week found that the company’s services such as Google Maps and the Google search engine record Android and iPhone users’ locations without their permission.

“We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers,” Google said in a statement reported by the AP on Thursday.


The statement contrasted an earlier statement sent to the outlet days ago, which insisted in part that that tech giant provided “clear descriptions” of their location-tracking tools.

The AP’s investigation, conducted with Princeton University researchers and published Monday, found that Google continues to timestamp user locations even after users turn off their location settings.

In order to fully prevent their location from being tracked, users must adjust their “web and app activity” settings as well, the AP found.

“The notion of having two distinct ways in which you control how your location data is stored is inherently confusing,” Jonathan Mayer, one of the Princeton researchers who conducted the study with the AP, said Thursday. 

“I can’t think off the top of my head of any major online service that architected their location privacy settings in a similar way.”

The AP noted Google is bound by an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it will not misrepresent to customers how they can protect their privacy. 

Google last year faced scrutiny over a similar issue when reports emerged that the company had been collecting Android users’ location data using the addresses of nearby cellphone towers. Google said at the time they would halt the practice by November 2017. 

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