You may not be conscious of most of the time, but Google loves tracking your every move. That’s what makes many of its location-based services possible.
Now the tech giant is packaging that useful but invasive practice as a new tool for consumers. Google has started rolling out a service called Your Timeline, which allows users to track all the places they have been on a given day, month or year – whether that be a trip to the mall, a globe-trotting vacation or dinner at mom’s.
“It straddles the line of creepy and cool,” CNET senior editor Jeff Bakalar told CBS News.
“You’re talking about the information that is kind of out there, even if you have a phone, a GPS beacon in your pocket,” he said. “If you are a power Google user, you are constantly checking with the service unless you tick that option that says don’t track me. If you enjoy the conveniences of the Google platform, you don’t do that.”
Your Timeline highlights the places you have been in chronological order and includes the exact times and how you got there – whether that be car, public transport or by foot. It also features a map with lines detailing your route on a given day. And if you opt into the Google Photos service, related images you took will also be included “to help resurface your memories.”
In a blog post about Your Timeline, Google product manager Gerard Sanz said the service will be available on desktop and Android and can be accessed if you’ve opted-in to store your location history with Google.
For those who may not want to retain evidence of a specific day or night (that bachelor party in Las Vegas), Sanz noted that Your Timeline “is private and visible only to you; and you control the locations you choose to keep.
“This means you can easily delete a day or your full history at any time,” he wrote. “You can edit any place that appears in Your Timeline, including removing a specific location or giving a frequented spot a private name like Mom’s House or My Favorite Running Spot. This spot will then appear right in Google Maps when you’re logged in.”
Bakalar said the new service in many ways centralizes things that Google already does – Location History already provides a map of your whereabouts that is updated every 30 minutes. And at least Google is keeping an eye on people much more transparently than it once did, he added.
In the past, Google has come under fire from privacy advocates for tracking iPhone users all over the Internet.
“Google are way more transparent than they have ever been,” Bakalar said. “It’s very easy to say, ‘Hey, I don’t want you tracking me at all. I don’t want restaurant suggestions wherever I go. I don’t care where I was when I took this photo. Don’t take this information from me.’ You can do that.”
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