“Don’t be evil,” Google once said It seems that motto has been discarded as more and more “evil” practices come to light.
Today, it was discovered that Google had the practice of maintaining the location history of users, despite them turning off location history in Google Maps and from their privacy dashboards. A report from the Associated Press in conjunction with university researchers confirmed that Google would continue to track users, despite being explicitly told not to save such data.
“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,” a Google spokesperson explained to the AP. “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.”
Some would argue that Google is being clever by half here, and that a completely reasonable person would no sooner assume that going to “Web and App Activity” would be necessary for users to completely obscure their location from Google any more than it would hide a completely novel pancake recipe.
As The Register sarcastically points out:
The mistake people make is wrongly assuming that turning off an option called “location” actually turns off the gathering of location data – which is obviously ridiculous because if people really wanted Google not to know where they are every second of every day, they would of course go to “Web and App Activity” and “pause” all activity there, even though it makes no mention of location data.
As per the AP, even when turning off location history, this data can be used to plot someone’s day, including their home address.
The firm has been criticised for this by Senators, users and researchers calling Google’s characterisation “disingenuous”.
“I am not opposed to background location tracking in principle,” Graduate Researcher K. Shankari said to the AP. “It just really bothers me that it is not explicitly stated.”