Google knows where you've been
December 19, 2013 8:11 PM   Subscribe

Google Location History- LifeHacker tells you how to delete your history (you need to be logged into google to use this link) and turn off Google location tracking on your phone.
posted by HuronBob (47 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
(or anyone with a subpoena or a sufficiently-legal-looking letter, depending on how Google responds to it),

If you don't want a large corporation to know your whereabouts on a minute to minute basis, the first step is not to own a cell phone. Most of the legal requests we've been seeing in the news have been for companies like Verizon. Part of the metadata that they probably get is signal strength measurements, which means they can triangulate you.
posted by zabuni at 8:20 PM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


On my new phone it was one of the first things they asked. It IS easy to decline.

Doesn't mean they still aren't tracking for all I know, welcome to the semantic web.
posted by Max Power at 8:26 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


On my phone, if I do that then Accuweather doesn't work right any more.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:40 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everyone knows where you are except the people who you'd want to know.
posted by humanfont at 8:45 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


With daily phone cam uploads and Google tracking data, I will be immortal. IMMORTAL.
posted by planetesimal at 8:47 PM on December 19, 2013


Ghost in the Google.
posted by Redfield at 8:48 PM on December 19, 2013


the first step is not to own a cell phone

And a tinfoil hat. Don't forget that, or they can beam the mind control rays into your brain.
posted by kjs3 at 8:49 PM on December 19, 2013


Meh, it's not fair to equate cell phone aversion to tinfoil hattery simply because it's well documented that "they" actually do know your movements.
posted by planetesimal at 8:51 PM on December 19, 2013 [21 favorites]


For Android (I think you need Root access), there are "permission manager" apps that (seem to, anyway) let you tailor what exact permissions - location, read phone ID, monitor SMS and calls, access contact list, etc. - are allowed to each app that requests them. As Chocolate Pickle says, some apps certainly require location data, so it's not a perfect solution...but it doesn't hurt.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:51 PM on December 19, 2013


I never turned that on, although I'm glad others have so I can use the traffic feature on Maps.
posted by jpe at 9:03 PM on December 19, 2013


You can disable location history from your location history settings (on your google account online) and then delete past records as the article suggests without shutting off access to location information on your phone. This gives iOS users the same kind of control Android users have in this case. Of course, you're trusting Google, but it's not like your location is every truly private when your carrying a cellphone anyhow.
posted by sfred at 9:03 PM on December 19, 2013


The perfect solution is to keep your phone wrapped in tinfoil.
posted by bonehead at 9:08 PM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Or not use Google apps on iOS.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:24 PM on December 19, 2013


Blazecock, could you send me a PM? Your mefimail is disabled.
posted by mlis at 10:09 PM on December 19, 2013


DON'T DO IT!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:43 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Meh, it's not fair to equate cell phone aversion to tinfoil hattery simply because it's well documented that "they" actually do know your movements.

But it is fair considering that the only tracking they would be doing is the general public going to and from walmart. Where else do Americans go?
posted by hal_c_on at 10:50 PM on December 19, 2013


it's not like your location is every truly private when your carrying a cellphone with the battery in it anyhow.

FTFY

Although I hear that they hand out fuzzy bags for phones before bigtime business meetings.
posted by Twang at 11:00 PM on December 19, 2013


Is there a way to get the panopticon to know MORE about where I am at all times? Because sometimes I randomly get search results for another state instead of for where I actually am. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 11:39 PM on December 19, 2013


If you're on Android, there's an app called PDroid Manager that gives you fine grained control over which apps get access to which detail. It's a bit hacky to install, as you need to install two parts of it, an app and a patch for your ROM, but it does the job just fine. IIRC, you don't need root access.

Another option is LBE Privacy Guard. You do need root for this one, and as it loads with the phone software, there's the possibility of it being circumvented. I've also heard that it can cause apps to crash, but I haven't ever used it myself so I don't know.

Apps still run just fine without access to every little detail of information. I've been using PDroid for several months now without a problem.

If you're in the market for security, don't forget a firewall. This one needs root, but otherwise it does the job excellently. The only things that I've found that it doesn't disable are things like DNS queries and stuff that happens when your phone contacts your router, for example, like fetching an IP address.
posted by Solomon at 12:02 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eh, I thought it was pointless to opt out now since the NSA knows, so recently I specifically opted in to Google Location History to take advantage of Google Now.

I mean, probably the best way to throw everyone off your trail is to give your phone to a friend. This way they will use it a couple of times a day. You don't want to throw it into a lake, because a dead phone is too suspicious. A friend is good too, because they'll go to the same places you go, so it will be a similar pattern. Then go ahead and make sure either to only call from pay phones or from "burners" that you'll throw away after each use.
posted by FJT at 12:30 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


> And a tinfoil hat. Don't forget that, or they can beam the mind control rays into your brain.

Remember when that seemed like a fair thing to say to the paranoid?
posted by vbfg at 2:41 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This information is so laughably inaccurate that I'd rather Google kept it - it's quite good that they think I was in a town ten miles from home last night. It has me jumping around wildly and seemingly at random to various local towns I never visit, travelling miles in seconds. It can't track my commute, it has a straight line between work and home rather than showing the actual roads I've been on.

YMMV, my area has lacklustre signal coverage and my commute has lots of big coverage holes, but this isn't the scariest thing I've ever seen.
posted by winterhill at 3:13 AM on December 20, 2013


I "have no location history from November 21, 2013 to December 20, 2013."

Damn. I'm better at this privacy stuff than I thought!

Or else I've just been imagining everything.

Oh god, am I dead? Is this hell? Someone help me!
posted by Naberius at 5:37 AM on December 20, 2013


Naberius, were you near any Target store's checkout line in that time? Hmmmm?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:03 AM on December 20, 2013


Ok now we know that kj3s is a shill for the cabal: tinfoil actually INCREASES the power of the rays!!!!
posted by sammyo at 6:03 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm one of those no-cellphone-ever guys. I do, however, have a 4G Galaxy tablet that I use for GPS and surf-anywhereness.

Imagine my delight that it doesn't register in Google Location history. No results :)
posted by davelog at 6:16 AM on December 20, 2013


The data that shows up for me on Location History, much like winterhill describes, isn't that accurate. It's about what you'd get doing "tower dumps" and just looking for my IMEI, which the NSA is more than capable of doing anyway.

So as I see it, either the NSA can track me wherever I am, or the NSA can track me wherever I am and I can get slightly cool geolocation-based services as well. Not being tracked is not an option if you have a smartphone.

If I was going to do anything sketchy, Step 1 would be to leave my cellphone at home (or at work, or somewhere else where it would be plausible I'd be for a while).

Rather than trying to avoid tracking, I think at this point the ship has sailed and we need to put more thought into how to spoof the data in a plausible way to cover up things that we don't want to have in the record. Spoofing, done well and done early, is a lot more damaging to mass surveillance than simply trying to turn off one particular mechanism of tracking, when they have a bunch that can be employed. Feeding them bad data poisons the well, just not feeding them any data is probably preferable from their side.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:46 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have an iPhone and occasional used the google app so it seems to be tracking me every day. But what is odd is my daily commute starts and ends five miles north from where I actually live. It says I haven't been home in over a month. Thanks for the alibi google!
posted by birdherder at 6:53 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


the first step is not to own a cell phone

Jesus, didn't anybody see the Wire around here? A burner costs $20, people. Use up the minutes and drop another $20, simple.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:02 AM on December 20, 2013


I thought I'd be creeped out or angry when I went to view my history, but I was a little surprised to think "this is pretty cool." I have a terrible memory, and it is strangely nice to be reminded of the places I've gone and the things I've done. In principle, I'd never want this to be shared with anyone without my permission, and if it was just for me and me alone, it would actually be a pretty nice gift. I guess I just need my own GPS server.
posted by blendor at 7:29 AM on December 20, 2013


I never turned that on, although I'm glad others have so I can use the traffic feature on Maps.

Actually, even if you opt out, you're still contributing. Verizon sells bulk anonymized data to services like AirSage, which then sell it to Google. IIRC.
posted by dmd at 7:40 AM on December 20, 2013


cite please. why would Google waste money paying a third-party for data when it already collects more data than anybody?
posted by GuyZero at 7:59 AM on December 20, 2013


Also, iOS 7 Turns On Location Tracking By Default. If you own a phone, it's tracking you.
posted by GuyZero at 8:00 AM on December 20, 2013


cite

or, just google "google airsage"
posted by dmd at 8:08 AM on December 20, 2013


Ah. That was easy. I did not initially map "bulk anonymized data" to traffic data in my head, but there it is.
posted by GuyZero at 9:03 AM on December 20, 2013


Not so fast there with the burner phones:

From Ars Technica in October: How NSA breakthrough may allow tracking of “burner” cell phones

And more recently, in the Washington Post:

Like encryption and anonymity tools online, which are used by dissidents, journalists and terrorists alike, security-minded behavior — using disposable cellphones and switching them on only long enough to make brief calls — marks a user for special scrutiny. CO-TRAVELER takes note, for example, when a new telephone connects to a cell tower soon after another nearby device is used for the last time.
posted by KatlaDragon at 9:03 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't have an entry for "Frequent Locations" on my iPhone. Did that get removed recently?
posted by monospace at 9:58 AM on December 20, 2013


Wait, who is using burners and then quickly switching to a new burner? What you do is maintain silence for a while on ALL devices, then switch on your burner. Also you need to vary your routine so that they aren't just using location patterns to trace your burners.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:12 AM on December 20, 2013


Real gangsters don't talk on the phone at all.
posted by planetesimal at 10:14 AM on December 20, 2013


With android google settings is a menu icon. Click on it, and location is right there, click on it, and disable location reporting and location history. Easy as pie, actually easier, I have to shovel snow to drive for pie, or make some.
posted by Oyéah at 10:16 AM on December 20, 2013


The answer to the question "Where was this pictures taken?" Mars.
posted by Oyéah at 10:28 AM on December 20, 2013


Real gangsters don't talk on the phone at all.

Exactly, that's why they had to infiltrate Warcraft.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:36 AM on December 20, 2013


Oyéah: I couldn't have separate access to both settings on my Google Play Edition Samsung (hah); there's just one setting for "Location access," and I think that's what the Lifehacker article calls "Location reporting."

However, when I went to the web interface for my Google settings, I found out that I had no Location History. I am a very recent smartphone adapter; I must have disabled this a long time ago from the web interface.

Solomon: Thanks for the PDroid Manager link.
posted by seyirci at 10:59 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was wondering why the history showed me going back and forth from work to home every 10 minutes or so, constantly. It's not just phones, apparently, my Nexus 7 that stays at the house is reporting back as well.
posted by hwyengr at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2013


Yeah, I got that too. You have to turn off the location reporting on your tablet if you leave it at home in order to get accurate location history. Of course, all the history up to that moment will be contaminated. Apparently Google doesn't log which device reported the location.
posted by zixyer at 12:05 PM on December 20, 2013


On Kitkat (4.4) it's: Settings->Location->Google Location Reporting. Note that it has to be turned off/on for each Google account you have on the phone.
posted by bonehead at 12:20 PM on December 20, 2013


Jesus, didn't anybody see the Wire around here? A burner costs $20, people. Use up the minutes and drop another $20, simple.

From October: Other Uses of the NSA Call Records Database - Fingerprinting Burners?:

Let’s consider, then, the very specific data this query tool was designed to return: The times and dates of the first and last call events, but apparently not the times and dates of calls between those endpoints . . . In other words, this tool is supporting analytic software that only cares when a phone went online, and when it stopped being used. It also gets the total number of calls, and the ratio of unique contacts to calls, but not the specific numbers contacted. Why, exactly, would this limited set of information be useful?

One possibility that jumps out at me—and perhaps anyone else who’s a fan of The Wire—is that this is the kind of information you would want if you were trying to identify disposable prepaid “burner” phones being used by a target who routinely cycles through cell phones as a countersurveillance tactic.

posted by ryanshepard at 12:48 PM on December 20, 2013


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