How Google puts you in control of your location data

You may have seen news about lawsuits brought against Google concerning how we handle location data. These suits mischaracterize and inaccurately describe the settings and controls we provide users over location data.

Today, a court in Arizona made a significant legal ruling against the Arizona Attorney General. The AG is somehow claiming this as a big victory but in reality, a judge rejected his central argument. Unfortunately, just before today’s decision, four other state attorneys general rushed to file similar lawsuits making similarly inaccurate and outdated claims.

We wanted to take this opportunity to set the record straight about the location settings we offer, and how you are in control of your location data.

All smartphones use location data — it’s integral to how they work. It’s collected and used by network operators, device makers, apps, websites and operating systems. For our part, location makes Google products work better for you — it’s what helps you navigate around a traffic jam, helps you find your phone when you’ve misplaced it, and lets you find a pizza shop in your neighborhood instead of suggesting one in a different state.

We recognize that you have a lot of decisions to make around the use of location data by various apps and services. That’s why we’ve worked hard over the past few years to build more control and transparency directly into our products to make location easy to understand and simple to manage:

  • Easy-to-use settings: We offer settings like Location History, which creates a timeline of where you have been, saved to your Google Account. You can delete this data or pause saving it at any time. Web & App Activity saves activity like the things you do on Google sites and apps, including associated info like location. Again, you can delete this data or pause saving it at any time.
  • Auto-delete by default: Two years ago, we updated our data retention practices — in addition to turning Location History and Web & App Activity off, you can choose to automatically auto-delete them after a set period of time (3 months, 18 months or 36 months). (For new users, the default is to auto-delete them after 18 months).
  • Transparency: You can instantly see your settings and manage them right from your favorite Google products — for example, on every search results page, we indicate the location information that was used to deliver results, and enable you to change your settings directly. And if you have Location History enabled, we send monthly and annual emails to remind you about places you’ve visited, along with easy access to your settings.
  • Maps Incognito mode: With Google Maps Incognito mode, the places you search for or navigate to in Google Maps won’t be saved to your Google Account.
  • Advertisers and apps: Location data helps you get relevant offers such as local pizza restaurants but we never sell your location data to advertisers — or to anyone. And from Android 10 onwards, you can choose to share your device’s location with third party apps only while they’re in use — or not at all.

As we design our products, we focus on three important principles: keeping your information safe, treating it responsibly, and putting you in control. We aim to strike a balance between offering granular customization for users who want to pick and choose between options, while keeping our controls simple and easy to understand. We will continue to focus on providing simple, easy-to-understand privacy settings to our users, and will not be distracted from this work by meritless lawsuits that mischaracterize our efforts.