If your cell phone isn’t in your hand this second, it’s almost certainly within reach. If you’re like most people, it rarely leaves your possession; you carry it everywhere you go.
And that is precisely how Google knows where you are at all times.
Far above their proficiency at making phone calls (who even uses them for that, anyway?), smartphones are excellent at collecting data about the world around you – and therefore, about YOU – even if you don’t tell it to. Almost everyone who has a smartphone has, at some point, used it for navigation, so you’re probably familiar with the interface. Tools such as Google Maps are frequently updated with new roads, up-to-the-minute traffic conditions, delays, etc., making it a vital tool when traveling. But where does all that information come from? Yes, your smartphone.
When you use your phone to navigate, it communicates with a GPS satellite so it can pinpoint your location, map your route, and alert you when it’s time to make a turn. That data can also be used to calculate your speed, and the speed of everyone else on the road who is using Google Maps. In fact, you don’t even need to be actively using Google Maps for your data to be relayed; as long as the location option is set to “ON,” your phone will keep in touch with the GPS satellites and report your location (and speed) to Google, as long as your phone is on. All that data is aggregated by Google servers, and the current traffic conditions are extrapolated from the results.
All that is super helpful when you want to travel the fastest route from Point A to Point B. But what about the fact that we’re all being tracked? How happy are we to know that our whereabouts can be defined at any given time? That might not sit comfortably with everyone.
So what can you do to combat Big Brother Google from knowing your every move? Here’s how to avoid being tracked so closely.
- Enable GPS only when you absolutely need it, such as when you are using your phone to navigate. Otherwise keep it off. not only will this save battery but it won’t let Google track your every move.
- If you’re using an iPhone, go to Settings, and then click on Privacy, where you can turn Location Services on and off as desired.
- If you’re on a Droid, go to Settings, then under Personal, click Location, where you can turn Location Services on and off as desired.
- If you choose to keep Location Services ON, you can still limit which apps are tracking your location by setting each individually.
- With an iPhone, on the same screen as the master Locations Services setting, you will see a list of your apps that can track your location. You can set each app to share your location “never,” “always” or “while using.”
- With a Droid, go to Settings, then under Device, click Application Manager. From here you can select an App, then click Permissions. From this screen you can switch off what services the app has access to; in this case you can turn off “My Location.”
Of course, there’ll be a price to pay if everyone turned Locations Services to “OFF” and never shared data. Google and other navigation apps such as Waze rely on that data to provide the most accurate information. Without it, your commute will be more painful and Google Maps will be less effective. It’s up to you to find a happy medium between exposing your personal life to Google and taking advantage of everything the technology has to offer.