Police can request your Location History from Google Maps Timeline


Google Watching You - Geoawesomeness

If you’re criminal and you have Android phone or you use Google Maps on iOS you should consider switching back to your old feature phone. The Verge reported about several cases where police have filed warrants requesting from Google the location logs of suspects.

The requested data is collected by a little-known service called Google’s Location History. We’ve been writing about it multiple times over the last few years as well as last July when the official coming out of the service happened as it has been added to Google Maps app in the form of the Timeline feature.

Google says that the Timeline helps you add a spatial layer to your memories but frankly speaking what it actually does is showing users that the company not only stores the information about our whereabouts but also deeply analyses it. The service is a clear evidence that Google records when and where your smartphone was and today Google’s policy is to comply with law enforcement requests for this location data.

According to the US’ Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which recently analysed the case asking a company for smartphone location data voluntarily shared by a users doesn’t represent a search under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, and therefore doesn’t need a warrant. According to the judges volunteering your geographic position information means you’ve consciously given up a “reasonable expectation of privacy” to a 3rd party.

No matter if we want to hide something or not it make sense be aware of sort of data we are sharing with the world. In that post we’ve listed all services where Google might be tracking your personal information and in many cases you can manage the privacy settings to keep it private. It’s worth taking some time to review it.

It is also worth mentioning that the capability is far more widespread on Android phones than iOS. While both system can calculate your geographic position with a similar accuracy, the Location History functions can’t easily log that data outside of the Android ecosystem.

Aleks Buczkowski
I'm a professional always thinking outside the box and a self-confessed gadget addict. As a son of a professor of cartography I was surrounded by maps all my life and as a result spatial way of thinking and seeing reality is naturally embedded in who I am.