About Google and Location Privacy

You may have seen a lot of press over the last few days about Google moving location data by default to be on-device (e.g., your phone) rather than stored centrally (and encrypted if you choose to store it centrally), and how this will help prevent abuses of broad “geofence” warrants that law enforcement uses to get broad data about devices in a particular specified area.

These are all positive moves by Google, but keep in mind that Google has long provided users with control over their location history — how long it’s kept, the ability for users to delete it manually, whether it’s kept at all, etc.

But when is the last time your mobile carrier offered you any control over the detailed data they collect on your devices’ movements? If you’re like most people, the answer seems to be never. And while cellular tracking may not usually be as precise as GPS, these days it can be remarkably accurate.

One wonders why there’s all this talk about Google, when the mobile carriers are collecting so much location data that users seem to have no control over at all, data that is of similar interest to law enforcement for mass geofence warrants, one might assume.

Think about it.


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