Google Maps saves travel data — tips to unhook it

Google Maps applications store your travel history. But the function can be turned off. (WTOP)

WASHINGTON — Google Maps has jumped from our desktops to our smartphones, and it can be a handy tool, whether you are navigating through D.C.’s side streets or the cafe-lined walks of Naples.

But it has a feature many smartphone users may be unaware of: It tracks your movements.

Whether you drove from your house to the post office or spent a long weekend visiting Seattle, your phone knows where you’ve gone — and so does Google.

The application has a history that is saved and can be stored, similar to a web browser, says Ken Colburn, with Data Doctors.

“It’s a convenience feature,” Colburn says. “There’s a digital history of my travels, where did I go, on what day.”

Several other apps do the same, and the developers similarly save the data, Colburn says.

“You’re putting this location information in the hands of others,” he says.

But Google can add your data to its massive data collection for other tools, such as traffic. If cellphones on the same freeway are moving slowly, that’s an indication of a traffic jam, for example.

“In general, most people are looking at this [and saying] ‘I’m not sure how I feel about them having my travel history’,” he says.

But there are pluses, especially if you lose your phone. There are plenty of ways a thief can take advantage of the data, he says.

Concerned consumers can turn off the tracking feature or delete the history. Check out these instructions from VentureBeat.

Follow @WTOP and @WTOPtech on Twitter.


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