Google tracks your location — even when you deny it permission

Google confirms it still tracks users who turn Location History off

Google fix cheeseburger emoji

Google is tracking your location — even when you tell it not to, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. The findings prove that many Google services on both Android and iPhones store location data regardless of whether privacy settings say otherwise. The AP’s report was originally confirmed by computer science researchers at Princeton University. And now Google has acknowledged the practice.

The AP first started looking into the issue when K. Shankari, a graduate researcher from University of California, Berkeley, turned off her Location History on her Android device — but still received a notification asking to rate a shopping trip to Kohl’s.

While Google does ask permission to use location information (such as requesting access for use in navigation), the issue lies within the Location History setting. Google’s support page states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored,” but the AP’s investigation found this to not be true.

The in-depth report includes a map that illustrates the commute of Gunes Acar, a Princeton privacy researcher. Even with “Location History” turned off on his Android phone, the map pinpoints exactly where he traveled and saves the data to his Google account.

Even if users “pause” Location History to keep the company from noting where they’ve been, the AP says “Google apps still automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.”  AP found that pausing it doesn’t keep the company from being able to store a snapshot whenever you open Maps, or pinpoint where you are when your Android device automatically updates to give you the weather.

A quick Google search for random items on your device apparently isn’t safe from tracking either. Even though your search isn’t related to location, it still allows the device to determine your location and save it to your Google account.

In response to the findings, Google issued a statement to the AP:

“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. 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.”

The tech giant says that users can turn off another setting called “Web and App Activity,” which is enabled on your device automatically. It’s a setting that stores information from Google apps and websites to your Google account.

Turning it off will prevent Google from saving location markers, along with information based on your search and activity. But the AP also notes that turning this setting off could alter how effective Google Assistant is, which could greatly affect those who rely on it often.

Mobile

Hey Google, why did you kill off Allo, your best messaging app in years?

Allo, Google's messaging app, has shut down. I convinced my closest friends and family to switch to the app two-and-a-half years ago when it debuted, and we've been using it since. With its death, I'm feeling pain and sadness.
Mobile

Google Fi: Phones, plans, pricing, perks, and more explained

Google's wireless service, formerly Project Fi, now goes by the name of Google Fi, and it's now compatible with a majority of Android phones, as well as iPhones. Here's everything you need to know about Google Fi.
Mobile

FCC to help first responders pinpoint 911 callers in multistory buildings

When someone calls 911 from their cell phone, wireless carriers provide operators with an approximate location. Now the FCC wants the carriers to provide vertical location data to pinpoint 911 callers inside multi-story buildings.
Mobile

Here are our favorite features in Google’s first Android Q beta

Google has released the first beta for Android Q, and with it a number of great new features -- including faster sharing, better control over permissions like location, and more. Here are our top five favorite new features in Android Q.
Deals

Get your hands (and ears) on Apple’s new AirPods — here’s where to find them

Apple's new AirPods with wireless charging are the latest version of the much-loved wireless earbuds. Unfortunately, they aren't widely available yet. Here's where you can find them right now, and where they will show up soon.
Mobile

You can now use the innovative Red Hydrogen One on Google Fi

The Red Hydrogen One was first announced in 2017 and has been delayed a few times since then. Now, the Red Hydrogen One is finally available, featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
Product Review

There’s almost nothing bad to say about the Mi Mix 3, but you still shouldn’t buy it

The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 is good-looking, really well made, packed with features, and is a powerful, modern, desirable smartphone. But you probably shouldn’t buy it. Why? Nothing wrong with the device itself, but Xiaomi itself is mostly to…
Mobile

Apple’s AirPower wireless charging mat may be coming soon

At its September event in 2017, Apple unveiled the AirPower, a new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.
Deals

The best Apple AirPods alternatives for Android, Windows, and iOS devices

Apple AirPods might be new and improved, but they aren't the only game in town. Other makers are offering their own truly wireless earbuds, with attractive features. These are the best AirPod alternatives on the market today.
Deals

Here are 20 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great small gift ideas), we've rounded up 20 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth keyboard.
Mobile

The latest Google Doodle lets you create Bach-like music of your own

Google is celebrating the life of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, and to that end the company has released a new Google Doodle that allows you to create Bach-like melodies and harmonies of your own.
Mobile

Amazon’s new Kindle has an adjustable light and costs less than $100

Amazon has taken the wraps off of a new Kindle model, which boasts a number of great features and comes at a very affordable price. Perhaps the best thing about the new Kindle is that the device has an adjustable.
Mobile

Apple iPad Air vs. iPad (2018): Which Apple tablet is right for you?

The new iPad Air replaces the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, but it doesn't pack quite the same punch. It is a fair bit cheaper, starting at $500, but it's a lot more expensive than Apple's 9.7-inch iPad which starts at $330. If you're shopping for…
Social Media

Facebook Messenger adds quoted replies to better organize group chats

Facebook is rolling out a feature that should help make group chats a whole lot more organized. The feature allows you to reply to specific messages within a group chat, so others will be able to tell what you're replying to.