It’s 10:00 p.m. – do you know where your children are? Google probably does. Thanks to Google Maps’ Timeline feature, the tech company probably knows where your whole family has been – down to the GPS coordinates. The feature was first rolled out in 2015 on Android devices and two years later on Apple, but many people still don’t know how much information the app actually collects. Before you hit the road this holiday season, take a minute to review your privacy settings to see if the risk is worth the benefits.
With Google Maps Timeline, you can go back to any day and see in detail where you were, when, and for how long. For example, the map will show you when you left work, got home, and any pit stops you made. It can also tell if you traveled by bike, car, train, or bus. If you haven’t changed the settings, this information may have been stored for YEARS. This kind of tracking is helpful if you forget the name of that new lunch place you visited last month with the great chicken wrap. However, if you care about your privacy and prefer not to have your home address or daily jogging routine under Google’s watchful eye, you need to turn this feature OFF.
Under the guise of being a digital assistant, Google collects that information to make your life easier. At the same time, it’s creating detailed profiles of all of us. In some ways, this makes our lives easier. In other ways, it invites severe risks.