Google Is Still Tracking You—Even with Location History Disabled

Here’s how to stop the company from following your every move.

If you own a smartphone, you probably know tech companies like Google often track and store your digital movements, offering suggested activities and ads based on your location. What’s less widely known: even if you’ve disabled tracking, Google still keeps tabs on your whereabouts.

As The Associated Press reported in August, Google Maps continues to pinpoint users’ movements, regardless of whether or not they turned off Location History, which functions like a private digital travel journal. As the news wire explained, even Googling a recipe or book review (searches that have nothing to do with location), could “…pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude—accurate to the square foot—and save it to your Google account.”

Tracking users in this manner isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some of us might want this to happen, so the apps we use can suggest activities and events near us. But keep in mind, Google could use (and potentially sell) this data to target ads by our location. Day-to-day movements are no longer private; seeing an ad for iced coffee on your phone when you’re blocks away from Starbucks on a hot day probably isn’t a coincidence.

There are some easy steps you can take to really, actually prevent Google from tracking your location:

Turn off Location History for Google

  1. Follow this link and sign in to your account to see your Google Activity page.
  2. Pause Location History.

To delete locations on your Google Maps Timeline, click Manage Activity under Location History. In the left sidebar, you can delete individual locations, locations by date, or your whole Timeline.

Even though you’ve paused Location History, some Google apps still store your location elsewhere in your account. To prevent this, disable Web & App Activity, which saves even more information about you (like where you took your last selfie).

Turn off and Delete Web & App Activity

  1. Follow this link to see your Google Activity controls page. If you didn’t sign in to turn off Location History, you’ll need to do so now.
  2. Pause Web & App Activity.

To delete stored Web & App Activity, click Manage Activity under Web & App Activity. In the left sidebar, select Delete activity by, then delete by date or topic.

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