If you can’t remember every place you’ve ever been in the past few years, don’t worry — Google Maps has you covered. It tracks your every move as you travel from home to work … and, yes, it also knows every pitstop you made along the way. At least, it keeps all of this information if you haven’t updated your location settings.
As creepy as it sounds, it makes sense: Navigation apps need to know your location to help you find your way around. But you’d be shocked to find out just how much information they keep on you. And make no mistake: Google Maps keeps this data for a long time.
Luckily, there’s a way you can take back some of your privacy. Tap or click here for one critical Google Maps setting to adjust. Read on to see how Google Maps is able to collect this data and how to take back your privacy.
Here’s the backstory
It’s hard to explain just how much data Google’s collecting on you. It’s better to just see it for yourself. Follow these steps to look over your location history:
- When you’re logged in, go to your Google Account page.
- At the left, you’ll see Data & Personalization. Tap on it.
- Scroll down to “Activity Controls.” Then, select Location History.
- At the bottom, tap on Manage activity.
It will look a bit like this:
Next up, you’ll see a detailed map full of private information, including your saved home and work locations. That’s not all, though: You’ll also find the many recorded trips you’ve made over the years.
Want to go back a few years? If you’ve recorded those trips, you can select a blue bar to get highlights. That means Google keeps track of places you traveled to — along with the exact route you took. You’ll even find out how long it took you to get there!
Scroll to the top left corner to find the Timeline box, which lets you search by year or even down to a specific day.
You will see a map that includes details like your saved home and work locations and all the recorded trips you’ve made over the years. Rediscover the places you’ve been over the years … including all the routes you took to get there. Only you can see your timeline, Google promises.
Location history is pretty convenient: By creating a private map of where your logged-in devices travel, Google generates automatic commute predictions along with improved search results. As Google says, you’re in control: You can change your location settings whenever.
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Freaked out by the location data Google’s storing on you? Here’s how to opt out
It might creep you out to know there’s a map that shows your location, down to the street and time, for years back. If you want to stop Google from keeping track of your every movement, here’s what to do:
- Head back to your Google Account page.
- At the left, you’ll see Data & Personalization. Click on it.
- Under the “Activity Controls” page, select Location History.
- Toggle this off.
Although making the switch stops Google from tracking you in the future, the company will keep a copy of your history. Also, once you switch the toggle, you’ll get a pop-up that confirms you want to pause your location history.
Hit Pause to confirm. This triggers a new popup; just hit Got it and you’re good to go.
If you want to delete your location history data completely, you can select the Auto-delete option. This handy tool lets you auto-delete data older than three months, 18 months or 36 months. Of course, you can still manually delete anything before that.
Just know that you may not see recommendations based on your history once you turn this setting off. You may also miss out on tips that could make your commute easier. Plus, your location data may still be saved when using other Google services, like Google Photos.
What if you want to stop those other apps from collecting your location data? It’s not as easy as a simple click of the button. You’ll have to open the app and manually shut down the location sharing options.
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