Remember Ashley Madison? The ill-fated Canadian dating website which encouraged its users to spice up their lives by having an extramarital affair?
What could possibly go wrong?
Well… as it turns out….everything. A couple of years ago their servers were hacked, and the company was held to ransom by the hackers not to reveal their members’ elicit details. In the end, everything was made public and countless red-faced potential adulterers were held to task by their justifiably furious partners.
It was a moment when everyone was shocked awake again to the fact that never before have we shared so much personally information about ourselves digitally, nor has that information been so obscurely shared, resold, amalgamated and even stolen… totally without our knowledge.
Maybe not as potentially embarrassing and shameful, but on the same scale of “hang-on-a-minute”, it broke this week that search monopoly Google has been overstepping how they track and peer into each of our lives through our Android and iOS smartphones.
It seems that even when we’re not using Google maps, search, and their other apps on our phones, Google is still tracking our locations at all times.
If you’re a member of the ‘well I have nothing to hide’ brigade, happily have an Amazon echo device in your home, share every detail of your life on social media and have no issue with these huge corporations actually getting to know you better than your own family, then this probably won’t worry you at all.
For the rest of us though, this is another blatant breach of privacy by the tech companies we’ve trusted and invited into our lives. Remember, as in the first example in this article, once our data is out there, we really haven’t a clue how it will ultimately be used. Google using its immense power to try to get to know each of us and our moment to moment behaviour better, has just crossed the line into the territory of creepy.
When we consult Google Maps on our phones, that shouldn’t give Google agency to secretly track everywhere we go. Even though their intentions might simply be about putting more appropriate advertising in front of us, we can’t tell that every OTHER company that might have access to that information doesn’t want to commit more maleficent acts. Who is to say that someone out there isn’t very interested when you’re definitely not at home, for example?
If we consider what Cambridge Analytica was able to pull off with millions of Facebook members’ data in recent US elections and British referendums… it should definitely give us a moment to think about the ultimate implications of a company like Google surreptitiously tracking everywhere we go.
So, to prevent Google from doing so you need to turn off another setting called “Web & App Activity”.
To do so on an Android device follow these steps:
- Head to settings.
- Tap on Google then Google Account
- Tap on the data & personalisation tab and then on web & app Activity
- Toggle Web & App Activity off
To turn off location history:
- Head to the Data & personalisation tab as above
- Tap on location history and toggle the setting off for each phone or device connected to your Google account
To do so for iPhones, iPads and computers:
- Click on this link to take you directly to the activity controls page (you may have to sign into your Google account to access the page)
- Toggle the web & app Activity setting off
- The toggle for location history is directly below the web & app Activity setting, which you can also toggle off
Alternatively, you can navigate to the setting by following these steps:
- Open Google in your browser and sign in to your account
- Click on your profile picture in the top right corner and on the Google account button
- Click on Personal info & privacy than my activity
- Click on activity controls
- Toggle off web & app activity
Remember, your data SHOULD, in theory, belongs to you. If you wish to avoid it being abused by people and companies with less than pure intentions, follow the steps above to reclaim a little more of your privacy.