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Unwittingly Revealing your Location to Others via Google

20th June, 2018 | How To | Entropic

White Sands, United States: Photo by Jacob L on Unsplash

For billions of us, Google is an everyday part of our lives. We depend on it for searching, e-mail, shopping, evaluating businesses, networking with others, finding our way around, and a host of other daily routines.These conveniences are too good to resist, but with these conveniences comes a loss of personal privacy.

A company can glean a lot of valuable information about an individual by tracking only their location, and in turn this information can ultimately be translated into company revenue. In this process however, others might also gain access to this information.

Though you might already know how Google collects and uses information about you, we sometimes need to be reminded as to how this information is being made available to us, so we can reveal the potential for others to gain access to it through vectors such as shared devices, and remembered passwords.

Based on how much you use Google, it's possible for others to monitor your current location from other devices that you have used previously.

In this article, we'll discuss some of many ways that you can unwittingly reveal your location to others by using Google services, along with proactive and ongoing precautions you can take to prevent this from happening.

Assumptions

Before we discuss the ways that your location can be revealed, lets cover some assumptions that we are making about a typical device setup for this scenario:

1) Opening a Link

While using Gmail and the Gmail App, clicking on a link will record this information to your Google account, making it visible to others who might have access to your Google account from other devices. Selecting a link in Gmail


2) Google Search

Every search that you make using Google Search and the Google Search App is recorded, and can be viewed in realtime by others who might have access to your Google account from other devices. The Google searches you make can go a long way to revealing your current and intended locations, as shown below. In addition, Google Search records your physical location.

Performing a Google Search


3) Google Maps - Search

While signed into Google Maps and the Google Maps App, every search you make is recorded by Google, and can be viewed in realtime by others who might have access to your Google account from other devices, as shown below.

Performing a Search in Google Maps


4) Google Maps - Navigation

While signed into Google Maps and Google Search, your current location and location history is recorded by Google, and can be viewed in realtime by others who might have access to your Google account from other devices, as shown below.

Timeline of your physical locations available in Google MyActivity


5) Google Sign-In Notifications

Google Sign-in Notification

When signing into a new device, or a device which has recently had it's browsing information cleared, Google will normally issue a notification to other devices that are signed in to the same account.

Within this e-mail notification, your location, device type and IP address are disclosed. While this type of notification is helpful for determining unauthorized access to your account, in legitimate circumstances, it can also divulge your current location to others who are using a device that is signed in as you.


Prevention

Perform these steps to prevent Google collecting, storing and dispersing information about your activities.

In this article, we have covered some ways that your location can be revealed without your knowledge, simply by using Google Apps and Services, along with some steps you can take to mitigate the ongoing collection of this information.

Technologies such as blockchain can help us to better control where our information is released to, and how it will be used in the future, as discussed in this article by Sarah Rothrie originally posted on CoinCentral.com.

If you have any feedback, questions, or suggestions, please let us know.

Acknowledgements:
White Sands, United States: Photo by Jacob L on Unsplash.