Even if a user turned off their location history, information stored through those location markers could still paint a clear picture about their physical whereabouts over time. For example, clicking on that location marker opened up a Google Maps display that showed exactly where I was when I made that search query.
While Google’s Location History is turned off by default, the web and app activity tracking is turned on by default. Without checking their “my activity” page, a user might never know that Google apps and websites are storing their location information.
To retroactively delete all the location data stored on you, you will either need to delete each individual item that includes a location marker (the map pin icon in the picture above) or delete all your past history.
When asked about why Google doesn’t make it clearer that pausing location history doesn’t stop location information from being stored, the company sent a statement pointing out that its message to users says that “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps.”
However, that message doesn’t give any indication on how to turn off that additional location logging, which seems like an obvious privacy oversight.
Google uses location history to let advertisers track whether their ads drove people to their stores and to let advertisers target people in a narrow geographic areas. It also powers Maps features like “Popular Times,” which can tell users how busy a restaurant or store usually is at a given time.
Turning off location and web and app activity tracking will make products like Maps and Google’s smart assistant less personalized, but for the privacy conscious, the decreased convenience may be worth it. (Here are other ways to stop Google from tracking your online activity.)
To turn off location history on a device level too, go into “Settings” on your phone, and look for “privacy” and “location services” categories.
Even if you do that, you won’t be off the map completley: Any phone connected to a cellular network or Wi-Fi will still transmit your general location to your carrier.