GOOGLE HAS been accused of monitoring the location of devices, even if location tracking is switched off.
An investigation from Associated Press (AP) found that Google's services both on Android and iOS devices store your location in violation of any privacy settings by the user.
In theory, if you decide that you don't want your location tracked, it won't be. In reality, it now seems that even if you "pause" your location history - which could be crucial in the case of, say, someone escaping an abusive partner - Google's apps appear to log your location anyway, without even asking.
Thing is, it's mostly benign stuff, being used in a malignant way - look up the local weather, Google logs where you are. Do a search that perhaps involves finding where to buy something, Google logs it.
Incredibly, a separate investigation last year found the same thing, and nothing has been done.
Tim Mackey, senior technical evangelist at security firm Black Duck by Synopsys comments: "When we recognise that our digital footprint is effectively a personally identifying attribute, access to that attribute becomes more valuable.
This is true for marketers wishing to learn when we're in the mood to buy their product, and in a location where it's available. This is true for malicious actors who can use location information to determine not only patterns of behaviour for their targets but know when to best commit their crime. This is also true for law enforcement seeking to identify suspects following the commission of a crime.
"In each of these examples, the same location and identity data can be used for good or for ill to identify an individual."
Google defends its position by saying that there absolutely is a way to turn off location tracking altogether. Just not the one you think.
"There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people's experience, including Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to the AP.
"We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time."
In fact, the setting to stop apps using your location is under "Web and Web Activity" - Pausing location only stops it logging to your timeline in Google Maps.
It's a bit like having a big button marked "press me" and another button in a cupboard in the next room marked "Not really, press me".
Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange, a company which is passionate about privacy (Germany, innit), commented: The pinpoint accuracy and functional utility of location services have brought much value to Google - and indeed its users, many of whom rely on these features day-to-day.
"Yet user privacy and consent should not and must not be neglected. It is extremely troubling that this tech giant is continuing to track location data even when users have opted out of this service.
"Regardless of the cost to any business, it is unacceptable to grant privacy only when it doesn't impact revenue.
"Under GDPR, any company, including the big over-the-top players, must cease collecting and monetising user information unless explicitly granted consent by the user. Every one of us in tech now has both a legal and ethical obligation to treat our users' personal data responsibly. Privacy is not a business model, but a fundamental human right."
Google hasn't got the best record when it comes to location tracking transparency.
It previously offered a standalone service called Latitude which allowed you to see your contacts movements in real-time without their knowledge, for an indefinite amount of time. That was shuttered in 2013. The current location feature in Google Maps is a more "locked down" version of that technology.
More recently a glitch with Google Home devices resulted in location leaking. μ
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