Just days after a report claimed that Google was collecting location data even when location services were turned off, the company has admitted doing it. Google has given the following response which is vague and doesn’t address the issue completely.
There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people’s experience, including Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services. We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time.
Google has recently changed one of the online help pages to make this clear and in doing so has confirmed that they’re accessing data even when location services are turned off.
You can turn off Location History at the account level at any time [but] this setting does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device. Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps. When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it’s off for all devices associated with that Google Account.
In comparison, below is the description from the same page as on 5th August.
You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored. When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it’s off for all devices associated with that GoogleAccount.
Google has given the following response for the change of language on the page.
We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers.
From the response, it is safe to say that Google was collecting data before the report went public. The good thing, however, is that the company has made a change in their policies and is no longer collecting location data (that we know off).