Google is tracking your every move: Here's how to stop them
HAVE you ever checked your phone and gotten the feeling that you're being watched?
Has an advertisement for a product or place ever popped up on your screen that you were just talking about?
When security researcher Mustafa Al-Bassam stepped into a McDonald's last year, he "almost had a heart attack" when he was prompted to download the fast food restaurant's app on his phone.
No, it's not a coincidence. Your every move is being watched. Monitored. Analysed.
Yesterday I almost had a heart attack when I entered McDonald's and I had a notification on my phone asking me to install their app.— Mustafa Al-Bassam (@musalbas) September 12, 2016
Along with Mr Al-Bassam, users soon realised that despite deleting Google Maps, another Google-based app, Google Play, was "almost obsessive" in its need to check user's whereabouts.
While location services on your smartphone are a given in modern society, turning them on means Google can pretty accurately find out where you are, and what you do. For example, Google Play passes on your whereabouts to installed apps via an API, whether Maps are installed or not.
For Android users, Google used this information to introduce a feature called Nearby, "which notifies you of things that can be helpful near you", according to Google.
"The Play Store offers over one million apps - many of which are created to be used in specific locations or situations. The right app at the right moment lets you get more done."
But Google makes it particularly difficult to switch these features off.
Here's how to get out of it.
Deleting or uninstalling the apps are helpful, or you could turn your phone's location services on and off as you use each app. But this is irritating and time consuming.
Tapping on 'Your Timeline', Google will ask you to turn on your Location history. This allows you to rediscover places you've visited in the past. But it also allows Google to create a complex profile of your personality.
Here's how to stop Google Maps tracking you:
• Select 'Your Timeline' in Settings
• Tap the Burger Icon (the three dots on the top right-hand side of the screen) and select 'Settings'
• Scroll down to Location Settings
• Tap "Location History is on".
• A pop-up window will appear; tap the checkmark next to "On". Swiping to the left should turn it off.
• Tap "OK" on the window that appears.
- You can also turn location off and delete location history in the same settings. Google will issue a warning that says your services might be affected - but let's be real, you'll be fine.
The 'Your Timeline' feature doesn't exist for Apple users, as they do Android. But there are ways to opt out.
• Make sure you're signed in and go to your Settings
• Scroll down to Settings
• Tap 'Location History' and slide it off
• To erase your history, scroll down the Settings menu to 'Maps History'.
• There is currently not an option to delete everything at once, but you can tap the 'X' next to the locations you want to delete.
• You can also turn off 'Location Data Collection' by tapping 'About, terms and privacy' under Settings
- There is a sneaky way to allow Google to track your location while only using the App.
Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Google Maps and select 'While Using the App'.