Google Timeline: A Scary Feature That You Should Turn Off
Have you ever got the feeling that you are being watched no matter where you go? If you own an Android smartphone, then Google may have just revealed the reason behind that feeling. Earlier this week, Google announced a new Maps tool – Your Timeline. This tool is designed to show people all the places they went to on any given day, and how they actually got there. Moreover, it also shows the images that were clicked that day and uploaded on Google Photos.
While Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil” there is a very real possibility that this in-depth data could be misused by someone in a position of power. Worse, it could even fall into the wrong hands and released for auction to people who want a detailed account of every place an individual went to in a certain time period. While Google’s official release on the topic states – Your Timeline is private and visible only to you; and you control the locations you choose to keep.
With that in mind, it is still a scary prospect thanks to the amount of data that is actually stored by Google Timeline in the first place. This information includes, but is not restricted to, the following aspects:
- All your movements and history of places visited
- Addresses of home and office can be easily gained from the data
- Frequently visited places and addresses can be spotted
- What common routes are taken by people to get there
- Photos that were taken at these locations and who you were with
While it is reassuring to think that Google has our best interests in mind and will not misuse this data, the fact of the matter is that this data is out there and it is vulnerable. For those who are aware, a recent hack into an adult website in the US – Ashley Madison – has revealed, there is no data that is truly secure.
How to protect your Google Timeline data
As per Google, any user can delete their entire history or one day’s history at any time. They can also edit the names of places that appear or remove specific locations from the history. In case you are not comfortable with this data being stored by Google, you can turn this feature off. To do that, log in to Your Timeline, click on the Settings button at the bottom-right corner and select from the following options:
- Pause Location History
- Delete All Location History
- Manage Your Personal Places
While doing so will help preserve your privacy, it will also limit functionality of certain services like Google Maps and Google Now. You can also alternatively go to the Location Services option in your device settings and make necessary changes there.
While the amount of data stored in this Google service is scary, the fact is that it is designed to also make things simpler. Ultimately, it is a personal choice that everyone must make. However, it is important that everyone is sufficiently aware about such developments and the security risks they carry.