Google has changed its stance after an AP report about its location data collection went viral. The report accused the search giant of keeping user’s location history when the setting was turned off. As it turns out, a seemingly unrelated setting called Web & App Activity also needed to be disabled.
In the original report, AP remarked that Google’s support page was misleading. It read:
“You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”
In response, Google said it provides clear descriptions of its tools and robust controls to turn them off. Now, it’s edited the help page in question, conceding that it wasn’t so accurate after all.
“You can turn off Location History at the account level at any time. This setting does not affect other location services on your device, like Google Location Services and Find My Device. Some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other services, like Search and Maps,” it reads.
A Sudden U-Turn
When asked about the change, Google said that it has been updating its language surrounding Location History to make it more clear and consistent. It seems the backlash has forced it think more critically about its explanations.
However, the change at the moment is minimal. Though the help page has been modified, the main settings descriptions remain. As a result, you wouldn’t be aware that Web & App activity collects location data until you try to turn it off, when it gives more detailed examples.
There’s also no option to disable only location data, which users assumed was the purpose of the ‘Location History’ setting in the first place. You can only turn off all the data Google collects, which can seriously harm search results, Google Assistant functionality, and more.
It’s clear Google still has a way to go with the clarity of its settings, and it’ll be interesting to see if it faces any GDPR consequences for its misleading options.