MORRO BAY, Calif. – I stepped out of the car and took a visit to a local hotel here right off the main road. It was so easy to find, I didn’t have to use Google Maps to get there.
So imagine my surprise when I later looked up the hotel on Google and saw this message: “You visited here two days ago.”
That was Google’s Location History talking, the search giant’s controversial people-tracking feature that’s billed as a tool to help Google make better suggestions on places to eat and visit.
For me, Google had indeed made a detailed record of everywhere I went – from strolling along the waterfront, where I bought gas, and even when I pulled off the road on the way home and got out of the car to take a photo of a railroad bridge in Gaviota, California.
Google says “Location History” is an opt-in feature that I don’t remember opting in for. I put the question to folks on social media and received similar responses. They couldn’t remember either.
“I knew I was being tracked but naively didn’t think they were saving everything in a timeline,” says Google user Leslie Morgan Nakajima, of Capitola, California. “But to see everything there was pretty chilling. They had every store, restaurant and bar I had visited, and the exact times I was there. I was so freaked out.”
There’s a good explanation why folks like Nakajima and others can’t recall opting in.
Yes, Location History is truly turned off when you sign up for a Google account. But if you want to use certain Google features, you will get a notification stopping you – until you turn the feature on.
For instance, Google Maps has a service called “Match,” which suggests restaurants based on your past dining experiences and tastes. If you click on it, Google sends you to Settings to allow Location History tracking.
Google also routes people to turn on Location History in exchange for “real-time traffic updates based on your current location” or with Google Photos to “help improve auto-organization and search.”
And the company is totally upfront about what it does, with fine print that most consumers probably don’t read.
Location History “saves where you go even when you aren’t using a specific Google service,” says the company. (We put in the itals for emphasis.)
Click here to see what data is on your Timeline, at https://www.google.com/maps/timeline
And while Google declined to address the popularity of this feature, it has made two significant changes to try to calm users’ fears of data mining.
Currently, if you’re uncomfortable with Google having all this information, you can go in and delete it. But later this summer, Google will introduce a new “auto-delete” tool that will get rid of your data, either every three or 18 months.
Also over the summer, “Incognito Mode” comes to Maps. Users can click on the feature, popular in the Google Chrome browser, to search, says Google, without being tracked……..Read More>>