Wednesday, March 23, 2016 by Julie Wilson
Just when you thought the surveillance state couldn’t get any more intrusive, reports of Google’s new location tracking software began to surface, invoking fear and anxiety among its users.
A new feature in Google Maps called “Your Timeline” tracks the locations a user has visited. It works by connecting to an individual’s mobile phone, before identifying their location and mapping out the places they frequent and the amount of time they spent there.
The tech firm says the new feature can help map out people’s favorite places, providing them with a timeline of when and where they have been, easily helping them to remember restaurants, bars or other attractions they’ve visited, reports the Daily Mail in online editions.
“Have you ever wanted a way to easily remember all the places you’ve been – whether it’s a museum you visited during your last vacation or that fun bar you stumbled upon a few months ago?” asked Switzerland-based Google project manager, Gerard Sanz, in a blog post. “Well, starting today, Google Maps can help.
“We’re gradually rolling out Your Timeline, a useful way to remember and view the places you’ve been on a given day, month or year,” says Sanz. “Your Timeline allows you to visualize your real-world routines, easily see the trips you’ve taken and get a glimpse of the places where you spend your time.”
Sanz, who has worked for Google for three and a half years, launched Your Timeline in July 2015, and has so far received mixed reviews.
Privacy concerns are of course an issue for many reasons. Aside from the location tracking, the feature can also search through users’ photographs on their mobile devices, in an attempt to find pictures taken at each location, the Daily Mail reports.
“If you use Google Photos, we’ll show the photos you took when viewing a specific day, to help resurface your memories.”
Its makers insist you can control privacy settings by ensuring “Your Timeline is private and visible only to you; and you control the locations you choose to keep.”
However, this assurance is never foolproof.
The problem with this is that many intrusive tracking features, whether they are on a television, cell phone or laptop computer, are often turned on by default, meaning they are activated without a user’s knowledge or consent.
Who’s to say this won’t be true of Your Timeline? If this is the case, Google could be mapping out your every move, the time you spent there, and the people you were there with if you took photos together, building a database of incredibly sensitive information without your knowledge.
And then of course, this information is always vulnerable to hacking.
But Google says not to worry. If you are in fact aware of this feature working in the background of your mobile device, you can “easily delete a day or your full history at any time.”
But again, since when is digital information ever truly deleted? Not often.