Google has been caught tracking the location of millions of smartphone owners, even after they’ve switched off tracking in their smartphone’s settings.
An investigation found that the tech giant stashes data about users’ location when they open Google Maps, check weather updates and even make searches that are unrelated to where they are.
This was found to occur even after Android and iPhone-owners had told Google they did not what to transmit their location data by turning off ‘Location History’ on their handset.
Google uses such information to improve its mapping service, giving real-time traffic information and details on how busy restaurants, bars and other public spaces are.
On its own website, Google says: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”
The findings have been backed up by researchers at Princeton University in the US.
“If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off,” said Princeton’s Jonathan Mayer.
Google has defended its position and claims it has been transparent with users and how their locations and habits.
The search giant stated: “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
“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.”
US lawmakers have criticised the practice, with some claiming Google harnesses the data it harvests to improve its advertising revenue.