Google Location History Plots Your Every Move On A Map: Creepy Or Cool?

By Ben Wolford on December 20, 2013 3:12 PM EST

Google Location
Google Location tracks your every move if you've enabled the settings.

Here's something that might interest you — or repulse you. Depending on the Google location settings on your Android smartphone, the company may been logging your every move and is capable of showing you a minute-by-minute chart of your activity. Just go to this website and log in to your Google account.

The blog TechCrunch.com and others have recently pointed out this Google feature, though it's not new. According to Google: "Location Reporting allows Google to periodically store and use your device's most recent location data, as well as activities like driving, walking, and biking, in connection with your Google Account." In one sense, this is perhaps Google's creepiest feature. Many thousands of Americans are telling a corporation which route they take to work, who their doctors are, how much time they spend at a neighbor's house and which stores they shop at. Meanwhile, that happy corporation is dutifully archiving these data.

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In another sense, it's pretty cool. You can see how far you've traveled from your starting location on any given day. So, for example, the author of the TechCrunch article wrote that "for three days after Grand Theft Auto IV came out, the furthest distance I went was the Jack In The Box across the street."

Google has hosted a similar program before, then killed it amid privacy concerns. It was called Google Latitude, and it allowed smartphone users to share their current location with friends, plotted on a Google Map. Users had to opt in and they could be as specific as the precise coordinates or as vague as only the city. Privacy International said the "danger arises when a second party can gain physical access to a user's phone and enable Latitude without the owner's knowledge." Google Latitude was shut down in August.

It's still unclear whether Google Location will have the same "overwriting" feature that Google Latitude had. Latitude was designed to constantly replace your old location data with new location data. "The intention is to make sure Latitude doesn't become an honeypot for cops wanting to be able to easily find out where you have been," Wired reported. But it seems that's not the case. Once you choose to share your coordinates, they get logged until you clear your history. (You can delete as much or as little from your location history as you want.)

The feature doesn't work for iOS, but there's another program for Android and Apple called Google Now, which acts like a personal assistant. Google searches through your Gmail inbox to do things like pull up your flight information, recommend restaurants nearby, and plan your commute based on current traffic. For users of Android and iOS, you can manage how much Google knows through your privacy settings.

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