You turned off location history on your Google account, so now your Google apps can’t track you, right? Not exactly. While disabling that setting sounds like a one-and-done, some Google apps are Associated Press.. Merely opening the Google Maps app or using Google on any platform for a search logs your location down to the square foot with a time stamp, according to an investigation from the
Turning off location history only removes where you’ve been from the Google Maps Timeline feature, which logs your location with certain data at a specific time. Google’s support page on the matter is confusing. It says that even when turned off, “some location data may continue to be saved in other settings,” like your web and app activity. (We reached out to Google for more information and will update this story when we hear back.) But if you take a few more steps, you can stop Google from knowing where you are 24/7.
Just note that turning off this default setting does have some drawbacks. While Google’s settings may seem intrusive to some, they also help cultivate an ultra-personalized online experience, such as through personalized ads.
Here’s how to really turn off Google tracking, and what the consequences of doing so might be.
How to turn off Google’s location tracking
To completely shut down Google’s ability to log your location, here’s what to do:
1. Open up Google.com on your desktop or mobile browser.
2. At the top right, log into your Google account if you aren’t already.
3. Select Manage your Google Account.
4. In the Privacy & Personalization box, select Manage your data & personalization.
5. Scroll down to the Activity Controls, and select Manage your activity controls.
6. There you’ll see a box called Web & App Activity. From there, you can slide the toggle switch to off.
7. There will be a disclosure to ensure you understand what disabling this setting will do before you select Pause.
What does this stop Google from storing?
Turning off this setting prevents Google from storing location markers associated with specific actions and stops the company from storing information collected from searches or other activity. Turning it off does not just keep your current location private, but also your IP address and other sensitive information — like your home address.
Note that to use certain features, like the Maps app, Google will still need to access your location. However, completing the steps above prevents it from storing your activity.
What are the pros and cons of turning off Google tracking?
Turning off tracking means you’ll see less relevant ads, less helpful search recommendations, and overall get a less-personalized experience using the search engine and its apps and services. For those who enjoy personalized ads, turning off tracking will prevent Google from predicting what you might care about. However, for those who prioritize privacy over everything, turning this setting off may be worth the loss of specificity.
The bottom line: You can keep your privacy and lose the personalized internet experience, or continue to let Google share your information with third parties and continue to see relevant ads and search suggestions.
Will I lose any saved data if I turn off this Google setting?
No — your saved data will remain untouched. Disabling tracking will prevent Google from storing future information, but doesn’t delete any prior data that it gathered. To delete that past information, follow these steps:
1. On a browser, go to Google’s main page and make sure you’re logged in. Click the profile icon in the upper right-hand corner and select Manage your Google Account.
2. Select Data & Personalization on the left-hand tool bar or select Manage your data & personalization in the box on the page. Both options will bring you to the same place.
3. Under Activity controls, select Location History.
4. Select Manage activity, and it will bring you to Google Timeline.
5. In the bottom right corner, click the settings icon immediately to the left of the Map button, and select Delete all Location History.
6. Check the box to indicate that you understand and want to delete all Location History.
7. Click Delete Location History.
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