An investigation by Association Press claims that Google services on both Android devices and iPhones are still logging users’ movements – even if they believe they have switched tracking permissions off. AP has had its findings independently confirmed by computer science researchers at Princeton.
“Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking,” it claims. “For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are.” It is estimated these privacy issues could affect billions of device users – but Google has denied any wrongdoing.
“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,” it said in a statement to 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.”
Critics say this data is used by Google to refine its advertising messages to users and, as such, is the chassis of its revenue model here. It is unlikely this will explode into a scandal on a par with the one Facebook had to deal with over Cambridge Analytica, but in the wake of GDPR in Europe, there is immense consumer sensitivity about privacy issues and this could hound the company over the coming weeks.