Google Maps can guide you through unknown cities and neighborhoods — or help you find the best route to work on any given day. But for all the information it provides, there’s a big caveat: The data it collects about you.
It’s not just Maps, either. Did you know there’s a hidden map in Google Photos that keeps track of where you’ve been and the photos you took there? Tap or click here for the hidden map on your phone that shows everywhere you’ve been.
If you’re using Google Maps and value your privacy, there’s one setting you should turn off right now. We’re going to show you what that is and how to do it.
Here’s the backstory
Google Maps works even if you don’t have a Google account associated with it. But to get the full functionality, signing in allows you to save your home and work locations, pin favorite places, or remember your preferred routes.
Google Maps also uses the GPS location on your phone to determine where in the world you are. Every time you search for something, look up an address or find directions, it stores your current location to your profile.
That might not seem so bad. After all, your navigation app needs to know where you are. But that stored location data is almost never deleted from your account. That means you’ll be able to check where you were on this day five years ago, for instance.
Recording details right down to the closest known street address, Google will pin photos that you took to your timeline map. You might not even realize you agreed to it, but Google has been keeping tabs on your movements for years.
How to turn it off
Your location history can be found in the Activity Controls section of your Google account. The search engine giant describes the functionality this way: It “saves where you go with your devices, even when you aren’t using a specific Google service.”
Here’s how to turn it off:
- When signed in, click on your profile picture to open your Google account.
- Click on Manage your account.
- On the left, click on Data & Personalization.
- Under Activity Controls, click on Location History.
- Toggle the blue switch to turn it off.
You can also see the devices associated with your account and deactivate your location history for each device. Switching this off stops tracking in the future, but it will retain a copy of your history.
To completely delete your location history data, click on the Auto-Delete option. You can choose to auto-delete the data older than three months, older than 18 months or older than 36 months. You can still manually delete anything before that.