AP and Princeton University: Google tracks location of users even when they tell it not to

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/08/13/ap-and-princeton-university-g.html

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Once in a while I use a location spoofing app to place myself at some random location somewhere else on the globe. I don’t know if it actually pollutes their data but if it does introducing a bit of FUD into their system can’t hurt.

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Dear Google,

I recently purchased some of your tracking data to determine where I should place my new restaurant. I am writing to complain and ask for a refund because nobody is showing up or even driving by.

Signed,
Disgruntled Data Customer
536 Middle of Nowhere and Somewhere Else on the Globe.

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I don’t even see anything on that page for turning off location tracking. They don’t even mention location as being part of the web and app activity they store. Reading that page any reasonable person would assume it’s only referring to searches entered into the various Google applications.

I’ve chosen to let my phone record my location but it’s insane (evil?) that Google lets people think they’ve disabled that feature in the most obvious and conspicuous manner when in fact it does nothing of the sort.

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I just stopped by the link that Rob gave

and Google started asking me questions. This is the third one:
54%20AM

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I turn off every Google service I can and deny it permissions to any service I want, which is very few. I wouldn’t even have a smart phone if not for my job. Frankly I hate them. Facebook, Twitter, smart phones… just one more thing we can live without.

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If they’re not tracking me, then how do they know if it’s Squirtle or Bulbasaur?

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I’m not sure what you said there, but I wholeheartedly agree.

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you click on, or slide if on your phone, the slide button near the top of the window. This pauses the track recording.

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“You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

But hey, they could not store the location data itself, but just, in the moment, translate the location into businesses visited and retain only that information and technically they’re telling the truth. “We didn’t store your ‘places’ - just that you went to a particular business!”

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Please elucidate. I’d like to pollute their data too.

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There are a whole bunch in Google Play you can find by searching “fake location” or “fake GPS”. The usual caveats about checking app permissions and capabilities apply.

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Sadly, I have an iDevice. I’ll search the App Store using similar terms. Thanks.

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Oh, I think this just shows how much Google cares.

Oh, oh, oh! Allow me. The Privacy Badger tells me this BB post contains 22 potential trackers. It further tells me that one of the 22 is Google Analytics, which means IP address, which means…uh…location.

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When I followed the link from the article the only section showing was “Web and App Activity”. The other sections were hidden by default. I see now there is a section for Location.

I don’t think Apple allows location spoofing. Then Apple has a better record than google in protecting privacy.

BTW, google libraries are buried so deep in Android that I would not be surprised if the location spoofing apps fooled everyone but google. If you don’t want google to follow you on your phone, get a google free version (e.g. lineage OS).

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Ah, I see. Even though I am not bothered by Google following me, seeing as I don’t have an Android phone, I still like polluting ther data, and will continue to do so whenever the opportunity arises.

Although I agree with you, I am afraid the effort is futile. Google has the best brains of this planet to ensure filtering out bad data.