AP Report: Google Knows Where You Are, Even If You Disable Tracking

Private detective capturing a photo suspiciously from around a corner while using a retro camera

Don’t be evil or whatevs.

In an exclusive report this morning, the AP says, “Google tracks your movements, like it or not.” Their investigation found that “many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used privacy settings that say they will prevent it from doing so,” and their findings were confirmed by computer-science researchers at Princeton.


According to the story, Google claims smartphone users can “pause” location tracking, or even “turn off Location History at any time,” which promises that “the places you go are no longer stored.”

AP says quite boldly “that isn’t true,” because even with Location History paused, “some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.” And of course all that data goes back to the Mothership in Menlo Park, CA. From there, your data goes… well, I suppose to goes to wherever Google chooses to send it — your metadata is their data, bub.

None of which should surprise you in the least.

Google and Apple got into a tiff a while back, when Apple allowed iPhone and iPad owners to disable web tracking, but then Google started inserting browser code to do so anyway without the user’s permission — or knowledge.
Privacy should matter to you, even if you aren’t planning on murdering anyone in Raleigh.

Let me explain, as briefly as I can.

Remember when we still went to the mall to shop? Picture yourself on a Saturday trip to the local mall — one of the half-day trips where you start at the big anchor store on one end of the mall and slowly work your way down to the other anchor store on the other end.


While you’re there you run into a helpful fellow named Java Script. It’s a weird name and he’s a weird guy. And when I say he’s helpful, I don’t mean he’s helpful to you — he’s there at the behest of every store in the mall.

And what Java does is follow you around, and loudly announce to every employee what you look at, what you put in your shopping bag, what you put back, what you buy, how much you spent, and how long you spent on each activity. Sometimes he gets in your way to bother you with information about other stores at the mall, and what they’re selling, and for how much. And you can’t get rid of the guy. He shouts out everything you do, and stays so on top of you that a two-hour trip takes closer to three.

Maybe he waits outside the bathroom when you stop to pee — maybe. If Mr. Script is working for Google, he probably follows you in there, too. Taking notes.

I told you he was weird.

Probably you haven’t bought anything less innocuous than a couple of sport shirts, lunch at the food court, and a gift card for someone’s birthday. But Java has been on your heels the whole time, telling everyone exactly what you’re up to. Just how long did you linger in front of Victoria’s Secret, anyway? All Vicky has to do is ask Java Script.


Actually she doesn’t even need to ask.

Eventually, if you’re a red-blooded American, you’re going to want to punch him in the mouth.

You would never go shopping anywhere that had Mr. Java Script badgering you, yet that’s exactly what shopping on the web is like. That’s exactly what doing much of anything on the web is like: Constantly followed, tracked, your most personal information shared with every impersonal corporation. And with the government, too.

Everybody does it, but Google probably does it more, it certainly does it the most effectively, and as the AP reported today, Google doesn’t give a damn about your feeble little efforts to enable privacy features.

Your phone is the ultimate spy because it’s on your person almost all of the time, and it has GPS tracking built in. If you’re an iPhone user, you don’t have to install any Google apps. If you’re an Android owner, the Google spyware is baked in.

About two years ago I swore off of all Google products. No Google or Google-owned apps on my phone, and no Google search or services like Gmail on my computers. Giving up Waze, the navigation app, was really hard — like a lot of Google’s products and services, it’s the best in its class. But Google gave up on the whole “Don’t be evil” thing before they even started, and it’s also abundantly clear that the company’s culture despises people who think like I do, and probably nearly every reader of PJMedia, too. So I’m happy to return the favor.


You should, too.


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