Google and Tracking Magic

February 4, 2022

Tracking user locations is baked in to Google’s apps, and that is unlikely to change as long as tracking data (“anonymized,” we are repeatedly assured) remains a valuable source of revenue. CNet considers, “Can You Really Stop Google from Tracking You? Here’s What We Know.” The short answer—you can try. Reporter Kelsey Fogarty writes:

“If you use Google’s apps on your iPhone or Android phone, it’s a good possibility you’re being tracked. And turning off your location history in your Google account doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Disabling that setting may seem like a one-and-done solution, but some Google apps are still storing your location data. Simply opening the Google Maps app or using Google search on any platform logs your approximate location with a time stamp. In the latest lawsuits against the giant search engine company, Google has been sued by several states due to its use of location data. They allege Google makes it ‘nearly impossible’ for people to prevent their location from being tracked. After a 2018 investigation by the Associated Press, Google added features to make it easier to control what location and other data is saved, and what is deleted with features like Your Data in Maps and Search, which give you quick access to your location controls. However, DC Attorney General Karl Racine said, ‘Google falsely led consumers to believe that changing their account and device settings would allow customers to protect their privacy and control what personal data the company could access.’ Google has since defended itself.”

Of course it has. The company points to several measures one can take to “turn off” tracking, insisting control is in the hands of users. However, the write-up hints, there is no guarantee they will actually work. See the article for these methods—they may at least improve one’s odds. Or not. Google does promise one thing: users who turn off tracking will receive a less personalized experience, meaning less relevant ads and less helpful local search. Who needs privacy when one must have the name and number of the closest tapas joint.

Cynthia Murrell, February 4, 2022


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