Google Maps is easily one of the most popular apps on both iOS and Android. It's used every day to help users get directions, find nearby restaurants or attractions, and even order lunch delivery. You already knew that, but what you might not have known is that Google Maps tracks everywhere you go, with astonishing detail.
Todd Hassleton, writing for CNBC, shared his experience with exactly how much information Google Maps is collecting--and saving--about everywhere we go. Hassleton shared screenshots of exactly what Google captured and, I suspect, some of you might be surprised to know what Google knows.
Sure, that information might seem relatively benign, except why does anyone need to know that much about you?
In reality, they don't. Sure, Google Maps can make recommendations about places to eat based on where you've been before, and it will offer up directions to where it thinks you're going. For example, if you always follow the same pattern for work, or to pick up a child from school it will suggest those locations. Of course, if it's your regular routine, you probably don't need Google's help anyway, but that's a different story.
If you're curious about what location information Google is saving about you, you can tap on the menu and select "Timeline" to bring up a full history of all the places you've been while carrying your phone. If that creeps you out, there's good news. You can delete what Google remembers about where you've been.
And if that's not enough, you can also turn off location history by tapping on Settings, then selecting Maps History. From there you can tap the trash can icon at the bottom to delete your history for today or select "Change Setting" to be given the option to turn Location History off.
To be clear, turning off location history means you won't be able to quickly check your timeline to remember where you parked your car, or where that great restaurant you visited last week was. If that's important to you, by all means, keep location history turned on.
On the other hand, if you're creeped out by the fact that big tech companies want to know where you are all the time, you might want to consider tapping that little slider over and taking back a sliver of your privacy.
In addition, it's worth mentioning that both iOS 13 and Android 10 give you better control over how apps like Google Maps among others use your location. Obviously Google Maps needs to know where you are while you're using the app since it shows you your location on the interface. It also would be hard to provide directions from here to there, without some idea of where "here" is.
Still, there's very little reason that any tech company needs to remember that information. If it does, it should most certainly ask you for permission before it tracks and stores personal data about you. In fact, using those location controls in your smartphone gives you the option to allow an app to use your location only when it actually needs it, not to track the path you took from work to the gym and back.
Finally, I will add that it's worth mentioning that Google has made it easier to have your information automatically deleted every three or 18 months. That's at least a reasonable compromise between the convenience of features that use your location history and the peace of mind that comes from knowing your information isn't stored indefinitely.
Either way, at least know you know who's following you, and how to make it stop.