How to stop Google from tracking and storing your locations

Don't want Google to keep track of your whereabouts? Here's how to disable location history and tracking on your mobile devices.

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Image: marchmeena29, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Google can not only track your location via your mobile phone but also maintain a history of the locations you visit. The company uses location tracking and location history to serve you personalized maps, traffic updates, recommendations about places you go, and of course, targeted ads. But you may not want the search giant to keep tabs on where you go.

Turning off (or actually pausing) Location History disables this capability, but not in all cases. Even with Location History off, certain Google apps and services can still keep tabs on your whereabouts. To fully pull the plug, you need to also turn off a feature called Web & App Activity. You can disable the location tracking and history via the web, which disables it for all your mobile devices, including Android and iPhone. You can also disable it just for a specific Android device.

SEE: Mobile device security: Tips for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

On the web

To disable location tracking via the web, launch the Google homepage in your browser and make sure you're signed in with your Google account. Click your profile icon in the upper right and click the button for Google Account. At the Welcome screen for your Google account, click the Get Started link in the section for Review Your Privacy Settings (Figure A).

Figure A

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At the Location History section on the Privacy Checkup page, click the link to Manage Location History (Figure B).

Figure B

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Your location history opens in a Google Maps Timeline with red dots to indicate the places you've been. Click the Places link to see your most visited places and all the places you've been. To view details on a specific location, double-click its red dot (Figure C).

Figure C

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You can now review that location for that day. To delete it from your location history, click the trash can icon for Delete Day (Figure D). Return to the Timeline, and that location for that day should no longer appear on the map.

Figure D

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To delete your entire location history, click the trash can icon at the Timeline or click the gear icon and select the option to Delete All Location History (Figure E).

Figure E

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Return to the Privacy Checkup page. Click the (Turned on) link for Location History. Turn off the switch if it's turned on. Google displays a message to explain the effects of pausing your location history. Click Pause to stop it (Figure F).

Figure F

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Next, you need to disable, or pause, the Web & App Activity feature. At the Privacy Checkup page, click the (Turned on) link for Web & App Activity. Turn off the switch. Click Pause in response to Google's confirmation message (Figure G).

Figure G

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On Android

To accomplish the same tasks on a specific Android device, open Settings. Tap the setting for Google and then tap the option for Google Account. Select the heading for Data & Personalization and then tap the entry for Location History under Activity Controls (Figure H).

Figure H

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At the Location History screen, tap the link to Manage Activity. Your Google Maps Timeline appears with a list of your locations. Tap the three-dot icon in the upper right and then select Settings (Figure I).

Figure I

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Swipe down the screen. To delete specific locations by date, tap the option to Delete Location History range. Select a start date and end date and then tap Continue. Tap Delete in response to the confirmation message (Figure J).

Figure J

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To delete your entire Location History, tap the option to Delete all location history. Tap Delete to respond to the confirmation message (Figure K).

Figure K

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To turn off, or pause, your location history, tap the option for Location History is on. At the Location History screen, turn off the switch. In response to the confirmation message, tap Pause (Figure L).

Figure L

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Return to the previous screen. Under Activity Controls, tap the entry for Web & App Activity. Turn off the switch if it's on. Tap Pause to confirm (Figure M).

Figure M

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Also see

By Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books—one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.