Even if you turn off Location History, here’s what you have to do instead:

Is anyone really surprised that Google is tracking us even when we turn off location services and history? The Associated Press reports computer science researchers at Princeton discovered and confirmed the findings after the AP conducted tests using several iPhones.

Users can turn off ‘location history’ which allows Google to track and store their data. We decided to check for ourselves. First, I turned off location services in my iPhone settings and the settings of my other phone, an Android device. Then I went to www.myaccount.google.com and turned off permissions for Google to save my tracking history.

Then I took a drive across town to a Walmart, then to the place I get my hair cut, then back across town for a stop at my favorite coffee shop. Since my location settings had been turned off on all of my devices I expected to see nothing recorded when I opened my account information at Google.

Instead, every stop had been recorded along with websites and Google searches I opened on my phone’s Chrome browser. How is this possible?

Along with recording locations within the ‘location history’ options at myaccount.google.com, Google also records “my web activity and apps”. Since I used the phone to search the internet, it recorded where I was when I searched and browsed the web pages.

Google defended its actions in a response to the Associated Press by saying, “We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off and to delete their histories at any time.”

So how much does Google know about you? While I was in the myaccount.google.com website I searched and found every website I had ever visited was being stored under “my activity.” I could see every day’s activity, every YouTube video, every trip, every search and every website. For example, on February 14th, 2017, Google had stored nearly 1,000 places I’d visited online and every drive I took in my car and every photo I had taken on that day.

You can see what Google knows about you by visiting the “My Activity” section of your Google account. If you haven’t already turned off “Location History” you can do that, but if you are really worried about being tracked, you’ll want to scroll up on that page and look for the “Web and App Activity” and turn that off as well (Google calls it “pause” rather than ‘turn off).

Turning off location services will limit what you can do on your phone. Waze and Google Maps won’t be able to give directions, it will also be more difficult to search for local businesses since you’ll have to search for your city or zip code.

Whether it’s Google, Facebook or Apple, those companies do track your online activity and locations in order to sell advertising that reaches the advertisers’ target audience. By turning those off you will continue seeing advertisements when you check mail or browse the internet, but the ads you will see may not be interesting to you.

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