Thursday, July 23, 2015

Google maps location history shows where you've been.

OK. Now I'm not exactly a person that appreciates being tracked. I know tracking is occurring all the time, but most of us are unaware of just how much we're being tracked. I'm sure as I type this post, where I am is being recorded. That's part of the information that is simply known when you use the internet, but whether it is recorded or not, only those recording the information will often be aware and as users we're generally not.

I just read an article which said you can now check your Google maps tracking history. I have my tracking history turned off, (happy to see that) so I couldn't see anything. If you'd like to check out this feature of Google maps visit

For those who prefer not to be tracked, there's a couple of things you can do to minimise the information you provide.

First turn off location services in your devices. Only enable the services when you need them. I'd also suggest that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can be used to track you.

Log out of online services when you're not using them. Yes it's really convenient to always be logged into Google and Facebook type services, but being logged on means you're activity is being logged. As you move from office to home, where you are and when you're there can be logged.

Whilst I'm not sure it makes any real difference, I tend to split my use over multiple services. For example sometimes I'll use Apple maps and at other times I'll use Google maps. Yes, it's a bit silly, but it gives me a small feeling of comfort not all my data is going to one single major supplier.

Keep in mind I'm not a hacker or security boffin. Think of me as an experienced computer person. Those who specialise in these areas will know far more than I'll ever know. However it doesn't take much effort to be curious and find out more than most people know. For example here is an article on the information that can be seen on an unsecured public hotspot.

If you recall, Google got into trouble for recording data when it scanned the Wi-Fi access points whilst mapping roads. Google knows my IP address because it's the same each time I connect to the internet. It most likely knows my access point's location. If I use Wi-Fi to connect to the internet and if my access point information is provided, then I can be located. I don't know if this is happening, but Google has enough information to put data together which I think could pretty well locate me. Opening Google maps on my MacBook Air shows the map centred perhaps east of where I am by less than a kilometre. I'm using the broadband services of an ISP which means the address is fixed. My address is available through a variety of sources. I'm currently logged on by name in a Google service. Google knows where I am and the time I'm there. Google isn't the only business that has this type of information available.

Now often people say what does it matter. I'm not doing anything wrong. That's true. However my response is, roughly 10% of people aren't as straight as the rest of us. Those 10% work in companies, government organisations, telcos, even search and social media companies. Your information can get into the hands of good people as well as bad. Keep in mind the high profile leaks that we've seen that have embarrassed governments around the world. Often that information was leaked by trusted staff.

If being tracked concerns you then you may wish to take some steps to minimise your ability to be tracked. You can't stop it just as you can't stop your neighbour from seeing you come and go. But with a little effort you may be able to reduce how much information is collected on you. I'm not really sure though that you can make that much difference given the huge volume of data now being recorded on each of us. Still it doesn't hurt to try.

Kelvin Eldridge
Call 0415 910 703 for IT support.

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