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Security & privacy

Hidden map on your phone shows everywhere you’ve been and the photos you took

GPS apps like Google Maps make navigating unfamiliar cities so much easier. It even has a clever feature that you might not even take advantage of, Street View. You can use it for things like creating your own stories and time traveling. Tap or click here for 10 ways to use Street View you never thought of before.

Now for the bad news. We know that companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have geolocation capabilities built into their respective websites and apps. This makes it easy for users to check into a city, attraction or interesting places.

But did you know that Google has secretly been tracking and recording your every move, including the location data of your photos? If you use Google Photos, you can see all the data the company has on you.

Check your Google Photos settings

Unless you specifically turned off location tracking for pictures, every photo you snap will have the location where it was taken stored within its data.

RELATED: 3 Google Photos tricks you’ll use again and again

Here is how you can check on the Google Photos app:

  • Open the Google Photos app
  • In the bottom bar, tap Search
  • Under the Places section, tap View All

When opened, the Places section will show you a grouping of all the photos taken in a specific place. If you tap on a folder, it will bring up a map with location dots to show you the precise location of where the photo was taken.

The same data is also visible on the Google Maps website:

  • When logged into your Google account, open Maps
  • Click on the hamburger menu in the top left corner
  • When the full side menu is open, click on Your Timeline
  • This will bring up a complete map of where you have been and the number of places that you have checked into
  • Data of places you visited can also be recalled by opening the side menu, clicking on Your Places, and then clicking Visited

As Google explains on its website, Location History “saves where you go with your devices, even when you aren’t using a specific Google service.”

RELATED: Google Photos: 20 tips to help you take control of your pictures

How to turn it off

It is creepy that Google can track your movements without you even realizing it. Here is how you can turn it off using a PC:

  • Open Google Maps and click on Your Timeline
  • At the bottom of the screen, click on Manage Location History
  • This will open your Google account’s Activity Controls page.
  • If Location History is on, the slider will be blue. Click on it to turn it off, and it should go gray. This will prevent Google from tracking any future movements or geotag photos
  • There is also an Auto-Delete option, where you can choose a period for location data to be automatically deleted. This ranges from photos older than three months to photos older than 36 months

The above-mentioned method will allow you to delete data that is more than three months old, but there is a way for more recent data.

  • Open Google Photos on a PC
  • In the top right-hand corner, click Settings
  • Click on the Sharing tab
  • Activate the slider for Hide photo location data

RELATED: Google is ending free unlimited photo storage – try these other free options

This will only hide the location data from others, but it won’t remove it completely. To edit or remove a location from a photo:

  • Open Google Photos on a PC
  • Open an image or a video
  • Click on the Info button at the top
  • If data has been recorded, at the bottom it will indicate location
  • To remove the data, click on the pencil to edit
  • To edit the data of multiple photos, mark each one by clicking the checkmark in the top left corner of the photo’s thumbnail
  • Once all the photos are selected, click on the three-dot menu button at the top, and select Edit Location

That’s it. By adjusting these settings, you don’t have to worry about being tracked, at least not by your photos.

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