Data Doctors: Mining location data in Google Maps

FILE - The Google Maps app is seen on a smartphone, March 22, 2017, in New York. On Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, the family of a North Carolina man who died after driving his car off a collapsed bridge while following Google Maps directions filed a lawsuit against the technology giant for negligence, claiming it had been informed of the collapse but failed to update its navigation system. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)(AP/Patrick Sison)

Q: Is there a way to find places in Google Maps from a specific city that I visited years ago?

A: Google Maps is a great option for providing turn-by-turn directions, but it can also serve as an archive of places you’ve visited in the past.

The “Timeline” feature provides these details as long as you had ‘Location History’ turned on when you were visiting that city.

Android users can check this setting by opening Google Maps, tapping on the profile picture in the upper right corner and selecting ‘Your Timeline.’ Next, tap the ‘More’ (three vertical dots) setting, then, ‘Settings and Privacy,’ see if ‘Location History’ is turned on or off.

IOS users can check in the app by tapping on the profile picture, then ‘Settings’, then ‘Personal Content’ to see if ‘Location Services’ is turned on.

You can also check on your computer by going to the ‘Location History’ section of your Google account.

Search options 

Google uses an assortment of methods to compile the items that will show up on your timeline and then provides a breakdown of your history by day, trips, insights, places, cities and world.

Search by day 

If you know the specific date or dates of your visit, you can use the calendar option under the ‘Day’ heading, which will start with ‘Today.’ If you tap ‘Today’ a calendar will appear, which can be used to go back to previous years by tapping the current year in the upper left corner.

From there, choose the month and day to see where you were. If you see a line through any specific day, that indicates there is no recorded location data for that day.

Search by category 

If you are looking for a specific restaurant, hotel or attraction you visited, you can try using the ‘Places’ section. Once you tap a category such as ‘Food & Drink,’ for example, you’ll be able to sort the entries by ‘Most recent’ or ‘Most visited,’ which may require quite a bit of scrolling if you’re looking for a location from years ago.

Search by city 

This has always been the most useful option for my needs as it can show every location that Maps has for the city you visited, regardless of the date.

By default, it will show you the most recent cities you’ve visited, which can be changed by sorting the list alphabetically.

Each city is then listed along with the number of places and how long ago your most recent visit was that Maps recorded.

When you tap on a city, it will show you locations in chronological order from most recent to oldest.

This is my go-to resource when friends ask me for restaurant recommendations in a specific city, because I can tap each one to see if it’s still in business.

Search by country 

Finally, if you want to see every location you visited in a specific country, swipe the headings to the left to reveal the ‘World’ option. Tapping it will list countries by most recently visited, which can also be sorted alphabetically.

Tapping a country will categorize your locations by city with the same details of number of locations and most recent visit.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or X.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up