Google Tracking At Its Worst

Google Tracking At Its Worst

Smartphones are always being tracked. That isn’t a secret to anyone in the industry. Carriers measure the signal strength hitting each of their local towers and can calculate a rough triangulation for the position of any handset. The days of one-way pagers are long gone. This is the price we pay for being able to talk to anyone we want to, halfway around the world, at the drop of a hat.

Google has a few more tools in its toolbox, however. The kind of tracking that they can do is incredible. The Android phone features that allow someone to find a lost phone are just the beginning. Anybody who uses Google’s desktop apps or websites is being tracked, both in the sense of location and in the sense of online activity.

So let’s discuss some of the most common Google tracking methods, and review your best options for getting rid of them.

What Kind Of Google Tracking Is The Most Common?

By virtue of its industry dominance, with over 70% of smartphones being Android, hardware tracking is the most common way that Google can figure out where you are. So let’s start there.

Google Tracking Your Hardware

Android Device Location Tracking isn’t just a security feature. It’s a way for Google to know exactly where you are at any given time.

Why? Mostly to push the best ads that they can find, which might include local offerings. But Google tracking is the cornerstone of their popular Maps application. That’s why it asks you to review stores and eateries that you just visited… it knew you were there, to within a few feet of wherever you were actually standing.

A bunch of other apps and features also use your phone’s location data to offer ‘enhanced’ services: Emergency Location Service, Location Sharing, Find Your Phone, Location Accuracy, Location History, Earthquake Alerts, WiFi Scanning, Bluetooth Scanning, and Google Reviews to name a few.

Google tracking is super important to the more social apps that Google pushes. They make Maps better by asking for reviews, service clarifications, and special needs access routes for all kinds of businesses. Location services are why mapping activities are so popular on Android phones. But it’s a little creepy and invasive, so knowing how to turn that stuff off is useful.

Start by reviewing your settings in the My Activity panel. If you turn off Location History there, the following things will happen to your apps:

    • Most features that use location will stop working.
    • Your phone’s location will not be shared with any other apps.
    • Google Location Accuracy will stop collecting data.
    • You still get search results and ads based on your IP address.
    • You will not be able to share your phone’s location using Google Maps.
    • Your device can still send location to first responders in an emergency.
    • You will not get earthquake alerts for any earthquakes that happen nearby.
    • You can’t see where your phone is if you lose it.

None of that impacts WiFi Scanning and Bluetooth Scanning, so you will need to shut those down from your phone’s control panel. Swiping down from the top of the screen twice gets you to the right menu. Tap on the icons for Bluetooth and WiFi to shut them off until you need them again.

Finally, you may want to wipe out your past history on Google Maps. To do so, tap your profile picture, then tap More, then tap Settings and Privacy. Scroll down to Location Settings and tap Delete All Location History.

But the only way to really stop all tracking is to take the battery out of the phone!

Why? Government backdoors were installed in every handset. It’s actually a known industry standard, and how a lot of the emergency services stuff works. They have to work even if the phone is ‘off’. These capabilities were leaked by Snowden. The U.S. government calls these backdoors ‘Noisy Smurf’ attacks. They work on every brand of phone in the mainstream. That means the only way to fully avoid tracking, even for a while, is to take the battery out of your phone.

Google Tracking Your Software

Software time! Let’s look at how Google tracks you online.

Google tracking includes just about all of their services: Search, Gmail, YouTube, Docs, and plenty more. They can track you with their ‘first party’ cookies, your IP address, your browser fingerprint, or certain GPS document metatags.

GPS tagging means that Google tracking software puts location information into your photos. To turn this off fully, you need to visit two places:

In the Google Camera app, go to More, Settings, Save Location, and turn that off. In the Google Photos app, go to Menu, Settings, and toggle Remove Geo Location.

Next, you should go back to the My Activity panel and shut off Web And App Activity and YouTube History. Feel free to be more exact than that if you want, but it’s safest to eliminate their permission to track entirely unless you have a good reason to do otherwise.

Other Google tracking methods are harder to stop. A third-party app is needed to obscure your IP address and browser fingerprint.

You should try Hoody first. It’s a browser add-on that can create fake profiles. If you want, it can change your public IP address to one from another country to mess with tracking and get around censorship. It also makes your web browser’s fingerprint less unique. Head to AmIUnique to see why that’s a good thing!

Finally, Miscellaneous Google Tracking

Of course, Google Home appliances like Google Nest, Google Chromecast, and the like mean that you have some serious Google tracking.

You can limit what gets monitored by going into your Chromecast Settings in the Google Home app. Turn off ‘Help Improve Chromecast’.

Also, go to the Google Device Privacy settings in your Data And Privacy control panel. From there navigate to the Voice and Audio section. There you can set how much Google Nest services listen to and opt out of customer service monitoring.

That’s it! There are tons of ways Google tracking can impact your life. Start with these and then look into the specific apps that you use, particularly if they weren’t mentioned in the article by name.

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