Google admits it tracks users, even if you opt out

An Android smartphone illustrative

An Android smartphone illustrative

Google has confirmed that it still tracks users even after they turn off the "Location History" setting on their device. Google responded on Thursday-by changing its help page, not the feature. The news agency looked into the matter after K. Shankari, a graduate researcher at the University of California Berkeley blogged about how her Android device had prompted her to rate a recent shopping trip to Kohl's despite her location history function being disabled.

Previously, this page claimed that "with Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored".

The AP's Monday report described how using Google search, many of its websites, and some of its apps still lead to a user's location being tracked on as precise as a minute-by-minute basis, including recognizing one's home address and all the places visited.

The daily weather updates on Android phones also provided another way to track movement. "When you turn off Location History for your Google Account, it's off for all devices associated with that Google Account".

'We have been updating the explanatory language about Location History to make it more consistent and clear across our platforms and help centers, ' Google said in a statement to the AP.

Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission's enforcement bureau, said the wording change was a step in the right direction.

The change appeared to have been made to Google's website midday Thursday.

This is enabled by default, and stores a variety of information from Google apps and websites to your Google account. Turning that setting off that would in fact stop recording location data.

The AP investigation found that even with Location History turned off, Google stores user location when, for instance, the Google Maps app is opened, or when users conduct Google searches that aren't related to location.

Additionally, new data-privacy rules adopted by the European Union have also generated a greater focus on protecting user data. For now, at least, Google has met the bare minimum legal requirement to not misrepresent what it's collecting from users, whether users agree to its reasons or not.

Google has not changed its location-tracking practices since the investigation was published.

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