Photo: Google, Know Nothing Enquirer

Red dots mark the places I've visited recently. (Photo: Google, Know Nothing Enquirer) 

Google Timeline is Watching You

Google tracks every single movement of its users and records them in your Google Timeline. It's really creepy. 

by the Know Nothing Enquirer   27/04/2016

By coincidence I read this short article on Google using users’ smartphone sensors to track every single phone using Google Maps - of course only if you are logged in to your Google account and your location services are enabled. At first I was quite sceptical about this. I used Google Health for some time but decided to stop using it, as I found the tracking too creepy and invasive. I didn’t realise Google has more ways to track you.  But Google Timeline is a thing- and has been a thing for almost a year now. According to Google, you can only view your Timeline from your Android device and your desktop computer. Your movements are, however, still tracked from all your devices, including Google Maps on your iPhone and iPad. 


You can check your Timeline here


Of course I had to check it out. And it is one of the creepiest things I have seen in a long time. Every single day, every single movement, every mode of transportation is tracked on my timeline. Last Sunday I went to an exhibition at the Natural History Museum and a stroll through South Kensington. On my Timeline I can see exactly when I took the tube, how much time I spent at the museum, Harrods, Hyde Park and the restaurant where I had lunch. There are some mistakes (e.g. I took the underground home and not a car) but overall it’s pretty accurate. 


Google describes it as “a useful way to remember and view the places you’ve been on a given day, month or year.” Maybe for some people this might be useful but for most this is just an unnecessary invasion of their privacy, without any added value. Probably most people have never even heard of this and just agreed to Google tracking them in the general terms and conditions nobody reads anyway. 


Luckily Google also tells you how to turn the Timeline tracking off and delete your history here.