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Google will start deleting location history

Google announced that it will reduce the amount of personal data it is storing by automatically deleting old data from “Timeline”—the feature that, previously named “Location History,” tracks user routes and trips based on a phone’s location, allowing people to revisit all the places they’ve been in the past.

In an email, Google told users that they will have until December 1, 2024 to save all travels to their mobile devices before the company starts deleting old data. If you use this feature, that means you have about five months before losing your location history.

Moving forward, Google will link the Location information to the devices you use, rather than to the user account(s). And, instead of backing up your data to the cloud, Google will soon start to store it locally on the device.

As I pointed out years ago, Location History allowed me to “spy” on my wife’s whereabouts without having to install anything on her phone. After some digging, I learned that my Google account was added to my wife’s phone’s accounts when I logged in on the Play Store on her phone. The extra account this created on her phone was not removed when I logged out after noticing the tracking issue.

That issue should be solved by implementing this new policy. (Let’s remember, though, that this is an issue that Google formerly considered a feature rather than a problem.)

Once effective, unless you take action and enable the new Timeline settings by December 1, Google will attempt to move the past 90 days of your travel history to the first device you sign in to your Google account on. If you want to keep using Timeline:

  • Open Google Maps on your device.
  • Tap your profile picture (or initial) in the upper right corner.
  • Choose Your Timeline.
  • Select whether to keep you want to keep your location data until you manually delete it or have Google auto-delete it after 3, 18, or 36 months.

In April of 2023, Google Play launched a series of initiatives that gives users control over the way that separate, third-party apps stored data about them. This was seemingly done because Google wanted to increase transparency and control mechanisms for people to control how apps would collect and use their data.

With the latest announcement, it appears that Google is finally tackling its own apps.

Only recently, Google agreed to purge billions of records containing personal information collected from more than 136 million people in the US surfing the internet using its Chrome web browser. But this was part of a settlement in a lawsuit accusing the search giant of illegal surveillance.

It’s nice to see the needle move in the good direction for a change. As Bruce Schneier pointed out in his article Online Privacy and Overfishing:

“Each successive generation of the public is accustomed to the privacy status quo of their youth. What seems normal to us in the security community is whatever was commonplace at the beginning of our careers.”

This has led us all to a world where we don’t even have the expectation of privacy anymore when it comes to what we do online or when using modern technology in general.

If you want to take firmer control over how your location is tracked and shared, we recommend reading How to turn off location tracking on Android.

We don’t just report on privacy—we offer you the option to use it.

Privacy risks should never spread beyond a headline. Keep your online privacy yours by using Malwarebytes Privacy VPN.


Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.