The Government Really CAN Track Your Every Move, with Google's Help

Google Location History Mapping Your Every MoveGoogle Location History Mapping Your Every Move

I spent a lot of this fall traveling and some weeks I had no idea where I had been the week before, let alone what I did the previous day. But with Google Location History mapping every move, I can retrace my steps with creepy cool precision when logged into my Google account.

I know Google tracks location. It's something that you opt-into when using Google services or an Android device but the Google Location History webpage takes mountains of data and plots it in Google maps, showing exactly where you were at every point of every day.

It also shows you that this data is being archived. For search location, Google Maps, or Google Now, your immediate location being used to provide data to power these helpful services. I never considered that my every move was being archived inside Google's data centers.

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As someone who is pretty guarded when it comes to sharing via location based services, I'm feeling conflicted about technology that can provide historical data. On one hand, I love being able to click on a date on the calendar and have the red lines on the map display exactly where I've been but I'm also really creeped out about the wealth of personal information that I allowed Google to gather when I set up my Android device.

Last week I became a new Android user when I was gifted a Galaxy Note 3 while in New York City. Being a lover of shiny new devices, I quickly set it up, moving through the screens, not really thinking twice about checking the little box giving permission for my device to transmit data back to Google.

Since last week, cellular towers in my vicinity have been triangulating my location, pinpointing my route in red and marking the times I was in various locations with a dot, creating a history of my personal and professional travels. Even if you have the GPS disabled in your phone, cellular towers are still working to determine your location.

Even if you're not super paranoid, the fact that Google is gathering information location-based data about us through our Android devices is somewhat concerning. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know that Google cooperates with the National Security Administration (NSA), providing copies of emails, chat logs, and Google Hangouts. You better believe the NSA is getting location data about your daily moves too. Even if you feel that you have nothing to worry about in regards to the government, this information can still be subpoenaed in a court of law and used against you.

In the meantime, you can click on one of those red dots to delete it from your Location history. You can remove your battery when you want to go dark. You can change your password a little more often to protect your personal location history available through your Google account.

Or maybe it's time to switch back to the iPhone even though I was really starting to love my shiny new Android device.

-By Leticia Barr

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