Do you ever get the feeling you are being watched or followed? OK, it could possibly be because you are paranoid but more likely you’ve noticed a few things that are just beyond creepy when you are using the web and particularly Google services.
For an example, has an advertisement for a product or service ever popped up on your screen just after you were talking to someone about it?
When security researcher Mustafa Al-Bassam popped into a McDonald’s for a halal burger last year, he was shocked when a prompt to download the fast food restaurant’s app popped up on his smart phone. Mustafa tweeted at the time:
Yesterday I almost had a heart attack when I entered McDonald’s and I had a notification on my phone asking me to install their app.
Your every move is being watched. Monitored. Analysed. Not just by creepy spooks like the NSA and GCHQ but also by corporate pirates determined to get their grubby mitts on your hard earned. Google, (don’t be evil, that’s our job) are probably the worst culprit and are known to collaborate with National Security agencies to gather data on citizens, not just suspected criminals or political activists but ordinary punters. The aim is to build a profile of you that will make it possible to predict your behaviour.
Around the time Mr Al-Bassam noticed he had a creepy stalker in his cellphone phone, other Google users began to realise that despite having deleted Google Maps, another Google-based app, Google Play, was “almost obsessive” in its need to check user’s whereabouts.
While location services on your smartphone are commonplace in modern society, Google’s cosy relationship with the US government enables them to circumvent civil rights an privacy laws and accurately follow you, building a picture of where you go and what you do. Google Play passes on your location data to databases and installed apps via an API, whether Maps are installed or not.
For Android users, Google uses this information in a service called Nearby, “which notifies you of things that can be helpful near you”, according to Google.
Google jovially tells you “The Play Store offers over one million apps — many of which are created to be used in specific locations or situations. The right app at the right moment lets you get more done.”
But one they are in your system, Google makes it particularly difficult to switch these features off.
Here’s how to get out of it.
Deleting or uninstalling the apps are helpful, or you could turn your phone’s location services on and off as you use each app. But this is irritating and time consuming. However News.com Australia have compiled some instructions to help you shake off the stalker in your smart phone. See below:
Tapping on ‘Your Timeline’, Google will ask you to turn on your Location history. This allows you to rediscover places you’ve visited in the past. But it also allows Google to create a complex profile of your personality.
Here’s how to stop Google Maps tracking you:
• Select ‘Your Timeline’ in Settings
• Tap the Burger Icon (the three dots on the top right-hand side of the screen) and select ‘Settings’
• Scroll down to Location Settings
• Tap “Location History is on”.
• A pop-up window will appear; tap the checkmark next to “On”. Swiping to the left should turn it off.
• Tap “OK” on the window that appears.
— You can also turn location off and delete location history in the same settings. Google will issue a warning that says your services might be affected — but let’s be real, you’ll be fine.
The ‘Your Timeline’ feature doesn’t exist for Apple users, as they do Android. But there are ways to opt out.
• Make sure you’re signed in and go to your Settings
• Scroll down to Settings
• Tap ‘Location History’ and slide it off
• To erase your history, scroll down the Settings menu to ‘Maps History’.
• There is currently not an option to delete everything at once, but you can tap the ‘X’ next to the locations you want to delete.
• You can also turn off ‘Location Data Collection’ by tapping ‘About, terms and privacy’ under Settings
— There is a sneaky way to allow Google to track your location while only using the App.
Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Google Maps and select ‘While Using the App’.
WARNING – Graphic Content: Journalist David Bond decides to find out how much private companies and the Government know about him by putting himself under surveillance and trying to drop off the radar.
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