My secret love of ‘creepy’ tracking
A much-shared Guardian article yesterday
lists (some of) the many things you might not realise Google knows about you. It’s pretty eyepopping, even if you’re generally aware of the mass of information the company collects.
But I have a confession: I have a secret soft spot for the location history Google keeps. Go to Google Maps and select 'My Timeline.’ If you’ve been letting Google log your location, you’ll have a detailed record of everywhere you’ve been.
You can dive in and check where you were, at what time, on any day. It’ll even show a best guess at your mode of transport when you move between locations.
When it comes to me, Google has nine years of this information. Back in 2009, I started using a now defunct service called Google Latitude. It allowed you to share your real-time location with other users. At the time, this was a fun experiment for early adopters, rather than a terrifying privacy concern. That data was eventually rolled into Google+ location sharing, and then eventually moved to Google Maps where it lives today.
The quality of the data is really poor when you go back nine years, but in 2018, it’s generally pretty damn accurate. I’ve even got into the habit of going through and correcting the errors it makes! 'I wasn’t driving then, I was in a taxi!’, 'I wasn’t in Starbucks on Tuesday lunchtime, I was in the supermarket next door!’
I know I’m essentially training this surveillance tool to be better at surveilling me, but the map and personal data logging nerd in me can’t help it. Let’s hope I never regret it.
(Disclosure: I’m currently a part-time contractor for Google’s DNI Innovation Fund).