Your devices and apps really, really want to know where you are—whether it’s to tell you the weather, recommend some restaurants you might like, or better target advertising at you. Managing what you’re sharing and what you’re not sharing, and when, can quickly get confusing.
It’s also possible that you have inconsistencies in the various location histories logged by your devices: Times when you thought you’d switched off and blocked location sharing but you’re still being tracked, or vice versa.
Here we’ll cover everything you need to consider when it comes to location tracking, and hopefully simplify it along the way. Whether you want to give out access to your current location or not, you should be in control of these settings, and not be caught unawares by additional options that you missed.
How Location Tracking Gets Confusing
What happens if you distinctly remember turning location tracking off on a device, yet your position is still popping up on a map? Or maybe you thought you’d left the feature on, yet you’re seeing gaps in your location history? There are a few explanations, but essentially you need to remember all the different ways your location can be logged: by your devices, by your apps, and by websites you visit.
For example, you might have disabled location tracking on a phone but left it enabled on a tablet. Alternatively, you might have a laptop that’s tracking where you are in the background, even though you thought you’d disabled the feature in the apps you use. If you want location tracking completely enabled or disabled, you need to factor in all these different ways of keeping tabs on where you are.
If you have a Google account, this is a good illustration. Head to your account settings on the web, then choose Data and Privacy and Location History. Select Devices on This Accountwhich may reveal some phones, tablets, and laptops that you’d forgotten about—any device with a check next to it in this list is saving your movements to your Google account for future reference.
You can click Turn Off to disable this, but note the caveats that are listed in the confirmation box that appears onscreen: Your location might still be logged by your mobile devices, by the Find My Device service that helps you recover lost hardware, and by Google Maps when you’ re navigating or searching around the area you’re in. This Location History setting is more of an overall toggle switch, affecting features such as the Google Timeline and the ability to quickly look up places you visit regularly.