Halloween is a spooky time of year and some people might get a fright just opening an app on their smartphone. We're all aware that the big tech companies track our lives online and in real life, but it's pretty scary when you see what data and information these companies keep all in one place.
One example is your Google searches. Everything you've ever entered in the search bar is saved in your Google history. Every website you've visited using the Chrome browser, every YouTube video you've watched.
Unless you've taken steps to delete the activity, Google still has it stored. If you've never checked your history, you may be surprised to see every movement you've made since joining Google is stored where Google and other companies can see it.
In real life, Google has tracked everywhere you've gone by tracking your smartphone. I deleted that history last year but before I did, I saw Google tracked and saved on a map a drive to get a haircut, to Walmart, and to a coffee shop all in one day. I could see those stops on a map that included the time I left and arrived at each spot along with the distance traveled.
You can see your Google tracking history by going to myactivity.google.com. You'll need to be logged in to your Google account to see the history and make any changes.
This is also where you can delete that history and control how long Google can store your information. You can pause location tracking here as well, but we've learned in the last year that Google shares that information with advertisers and other companies that may have it forever.
Apple tracks your location too. To see what it has stored, open settings and location services and then scroll all the way to the bottom of the choices and select "System Services". The history is hidden in those settings. Select "significant locations" where you'll likely find on a map your home address and where you work. You might also see a number of other places you visit
You can clear that history within the settings. Apple also introduced a new feature in iOS 14 to prevent apps from seeing your precise location. Choose the app in location settings, and turn off 'precise location' for any app that doesn't need it.
In its description of privacy, Apple says it does not save a location history on its servers and that any data gathered is not associated with anyone's Apple ID.
You can turn off all location settings, but that'll keep you from getting directions using maps and GPS. It'll also prevent your phone from searching for the nearest cell towers as you move along or find the phone if you lose it.
The functionality of many apps and phone features relies on your location, but they don't need to store it forever.