December 19, 2013 at 02:00PM from Lifehacker
You probably know your phone can pinpoint your location for GPS, local search, or the weather. Hopefully, you also know that means your phone keeps track of everywhere you go, all the time. Don’t be alarmed—it’s the trade you make for the features you get. If it makes you uncomfortable, here’s how to opt-out.
Yesterday, TechCrunch wrote about Google’s Location History, which shows you where you were at any point in the day, on any given day, according to Google’s location data. The tool is old—Google introduced it back when Latitude was still a thing. Even though Latitude is long gone, the tool lives on. It’s important to remember that all of this is entirely opt-in. When you set up a new Android device, or install any Google app on your iOS device, you’re prompted to share location data. If you say yes, your information goes into this database—which is also where apps like Google Now look to tell you what the weather is where you are, bring up your boarding pass when you arrive at the airport, or display currency and language conversion cards when you land in a foreign country.
However, if it does unsettle you that there’s this much information
about your movements on a day to day basis sitting in a database where it can be accessed by anyone with your password (or anyone with a subpoena or a sufficiently-legal-looking letter, depending on how Google
responds to it), it’s easy to turn off:
If You’re On Android
If you’re an Android user, Google’s location services is broken into two features. Location Reporting, and Location History:
- Location Reporting is the feature that gives apps like Google Now, Google Maps, Foursquare, Twitter, and even your camera app access to your position. Whenever an app shows you something nearby, suggests local businesses, or helps you find the closest gas station, it’s using Location Reporting.
- Location History is the feature that keeps track of where you’ve been, and any addresses you type in or navigate to. For example, it’s how Google figures out where "Home" and "Work" are so Google Now can estimate your commute time or give you traffic information for those places. Turning it off will still give you traffic information, but it means Google won’t try to guess where you’re going based on your previous searches.
To disable location reporting or history in Android:
- Open the App Drawer and go to Settings.
- Scroll down and tap Location.
- Scroll down and tap Google Location Settings.
- Tap Location Reporting and Location History, and switch the slider to off for each one.
- To delete your phone’s location cache, tap "Delete Location History" at the bottom of the screen under Location History.
- Repeat this process for each Google Account you have on your Android device.
Google makes the process pretty easy and transparent. The downside is that apps like Google Maps and any other Google service that makes use of your location data either won’t work, or they’ll prompt you every time they want access to your position. If you enjoy location services but don’t want everywhere you go dumped into this database, just disable Location History and leave Location Reporting enabled.
If You’re On iOS:
iOS users have it a little more complicated. While iOS gives you more control on a per-app basis over who can see your position and when, you don’t get as much control over the actual database. You can turn off Google’s access to your location data, but you can’t wipe its history without visiting the database on the web, which we mentioned earlier (and will get back to in a moment.) First though, you have to turn off access to location services on your iPhone or iPad:
To disable location services in iOS:
- Open the Settings App.
- Scroll down to Privacy, and select Location Services.
- Disable all Location Services by swiping the slider at the top, or scroll down to disable location services for specific apps, including Google and Google Maps.
- Select System Services to deny location data from specific features, like location-based advertisements, turn off Frequent Locations, or disable the "Popular Near Me" feature.
Apple makes the process easy here too. There’s a knowledgebase article on the topic if you need to read more, or if you’re running an earlier version of iOS. Again, if you disable these features, they’ll prompt you every time they want location information, or they just won’t work.
To Clear Google’s Database on the Web:
Once you’ve turned everything off on your device, you can empty Google’s database of your location right from the location history page we mentioned earlier. Click on the current day, and click "Delete all history" in the left sidebar. If you prefer, you can delete location history from specific days—just select the day in question and click "Delete history from this day."
That’s all there is to it. Of course, clearing any logged data on your phone is a bit more complicated than just toggling location services. We have a guide on how to do it, but keep in mind that your Android phone will probably have to be rooted (assuming you don’t see "Delete Location History" in the Google Location Settings above), and your iOS device will probably have to be jailbroken for you to do it.
Let’s be clear: location services are actually really useful, and make a lot of our favorite apps work the way they do. Before you disable those features, make sure you’re not relying on them. Consider whether or not the apps and services you use are valuable enough to you that the information you give up is an acceptable trade. If they are, leave those features on, but if you’re not, now you know how to turn them off until you want them.