Google Admits It Tracks Users Even When They Don’t Want Them To

Tech giant clarifies it still knows where you are, even when you disable Location History

Google has updated its Location History help page to concede that it still tracks its users — even if they disable the feature — through a series of other settings, including their search history.

The revamped policy now explains users “can turn off Location History at the account level at any time,” but that “some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps.”

The admission comes after the Associated Press reported earlier in the week that Google was still tracing and storing the places where its users went, despite turning off Location History. Google had originally said “with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored,” as the AP noted on Friday, but failed to disclose it continued to track users through its array of services. Archived web pages showed Google updated its help page on Thursday.

“We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers,” Google told TheWrap in a statement.

Google, the dominant player in online advertising, said on its help page location data helps users “get better results and recommendations.” Turning off Location History limits the precision it can market to its users.

The Mountain View, California-based company is operating under a 20-year agreement with the FTC, barring Google from “future privacy misrepresentations.” The FTC has not said if it’s looking into Google’s updated policy and did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

While Google clarified its tracking policy, its amended page fails to mention there is one way for users to turn off all location storage. Turning off the “Web and App Activity” setting, which is turned on by default, prevents Google from using Maps and Search to track its users.