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 Can’t remember last night? Google’s Location History can tell where you were

Can’t remember last night? Google’s Location History can tell where you were

By now, most people should be aware that their smartphone constantly tracks and sends away location data and shares them with third party apps. Of course, this can be avoided by turning location sharing off but this would make many apps that need your current location rather useless – think Foursquare, Google Maps or any other navigation or travel app.

That’s probably reason enough for most people to share their location. But do you know how often your phone shares its location with, for example, Google? Well, it’s doing that quite a lot.

For example, a few days ago, I had a couple of drinks in two bars in Berlin and my phone tracked and sent my current location 300 (!) times to Google. Especially while I was going from one place to another, my location was sent to Google about every minute. For most people that number is probably surprising, if not shocking.

Google Maps Timeline shows your past location history in much detail

Back in July 2015, Google completely overhauled its Location History tool and changed its name to “Your Timeline“. It comes with a much more up-to-date design and improved user experience. Google wants you to use Your Timeline to “easily remember all the places you’ve been — whether it’s a museum you visited during your last vacation or that fun bar you stumbled upon a few months ago” (or all the bars you went to on last night’s bar crawl).

Just imagine yourself dragging along a brush with blue paint behind you at all times, painting a line behind you. That’s basically what Google shows you in your timeline’s map.

The cool thing is, it doesn’t only show your location history on a map, it also shows you the exact places you visited. Surprisingly, Google is doing that quite accurately and once it’s not so sure, it gives you the option to confirm a suggested place. The gimmick I like the most is that your timeline also shows the images you took at a known location. For example, in the image below you see images I took of the hotel I stayed at in the Netherlands.

maps-location-images

Besides knowing to which places you went, Google also detects, if you travelled by train or by plane and displays that information in your map.

maps-location-images-2

How to see if you have Location History enabled

If you’re not sure whether you enabled location history or not (many don’t), just head to your personal Google Location History timeline. On the bottom, you should see a card saying if Location History is on or off.

Google integrated Your Timeline into the last Google Maps app update, which means that you can access all your stored location history easily on your phone. If you open up Google Maps and swipe in the left sidebar, you should see “Your timeline” as the second option below “Your places”.

google-maps-timeline-app google location history demo

Inside your timeline, you can select the dates you’re interested in and see all the places you went to, how you got to them and how long you stayed there. In case you feel the need to delete the location history of a specific day, you can do that by selecting the three-dotted icon and then “Delete day”. You can also select individual locations in the your timeline to change the reported place or remove that stop from your day without deleting all the others.

location history timeline on a map - screenshot

How to turn off or delete your Google location history data

Having all the places you went to in the past weeks, months or even years all in one place can be very handy. However, you shouldn’t forget that you don’t have all that data saved locally on your computer. It’s up in the cloud and all of it lies on Google’s servers.

Thankfully, Google makes it quite easy for you to turn off location history or delete it completely. If you want to delete all location data, select the cogwheel icon in the bottom right corner inside the Timeline interface and select ‘Delete all location history’.

To turn off location history, check the steps below for both Android and iOS.

Android

  1. Depending on your device you either need to open the Google Settings app or select the ‘Google’ settings within your main phone settings menu.
  2. Select ‘Location’.
  3. Select ‘Google Location History’ at the bottom.
  4. Now you can either turn it off for your whole Google account or just for one of the listed devices.

iOS

  1. Open up the Google app on your iOS device.
  2. Select Settings > Privacy > Location and then Location History.
  3. To turn it off, select ‘Do not store’.

[Outdated] Google’s Location History lets you see where you have been in the last months

All the location data an Android phone sends to Google is stored online and can be accessed on Google’s Location History page. Of course, you can only access your stored locations if you’re logged in with your Google account. What’s interesting, but also a bit frightening, is that you can see your location history from many months ago. I, for example, can go back as far as December 10th, 2012 and see where I was that day.

Google Location history

Until the end of last year you were also able to see a dashboard with many useful data of your whereabouts such as how many hours you spent at work, home or going out. However, Google decided to take down the location dashboard, probably because not as many people used the service as they hoped for.

Google Location History Dashboard

Last words

Google Maps’ timeline (old Location History) definitely shows that Google is accessing your location in a much more invasive way than most people think. In case you don’t want your location to be stored online, you can disable location history in the settings. Open up Google Maps on your phone, go to your timeline and select the three-dotted icon and then “Manage location settings”. Now, select Google location settings and turn off Location History for your account.

Personally, I think it’s convenient to be able to see where you were the last days or months. If you want to review your road trip or just try to puzzle together how last night went down, your Google Maps timeline is your friend!

Are you worried about your location data being stored online or are you, like me, embracing Google’s services? Let me know in the comments!

Marc Knoll

Marc Knoll

Marc is an online marketer, avid blogger and technology enthusiast. His focus is on Android, tech and gadget reviews. He likes spending time travelling and reading all about what's going on in the tech world.
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40 thoughts on “Can’t remember last night? Google’s Location History can tell where you were

Felix Schneiderhsays:

Like most people I wasn’t aware of the fact that my location was sent as often as 300 times within that short amount of time. Maybe I can’t grasp the seriousness and consequences of it, but I don’t see why it’d be such a bad thing if google saved those information. Of course it feels kind of bad at first glance, but if you think about it, who would ever be interested in where you went in the past. Maybe that doesn’t apply if you become famous or a criminal, but it certainly does for the most normal people. If an option was offered allowing to choose how long your data remains stored then it would be totally legit. Props up Marc! 😉

Reply

Thanks Felix for the feedback! Totally agree with you. Maybe a little bit more clarification from Google’s side would not hurt so that people are aware of that kind of stuff but besides that I don’t see an issue here. People usually know what they get themselves into when they get a smartphone.

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Soraya Xelsays:

The big problem is that the government can request this information from Google. While the “if you did nothing wrong” thing may seem worthwhile at first glance, reconsider when you realize how your location could implicate you in a crime you didn’t commit by mere chance! Suddenly the government has a strong case against you for something you didn’t do. Hundreds of people have been executed for things they didn’t do in our history, on the grounds of evidence later discredited. Why risk being one of those people?

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Nehmo Sergheyevsays:

You’re right. But in my case, I’m such small patatos, if the government (or even a lone cop) wanted me busted, they’d just do it. I don’t have the wherewithall to defend myself. Someone in the US is really are at the mercy of the government if they are poor. It doesn’t matter much if they are non-criminal. US prisons are full of law abiding people. (A innocent convict internally resolves the injustice. If you think long enough you will find some reason why you are deserving of the blow. — paraphrased from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)
OTOH, other than (the money they would make for) adding a warm body to the incarcerated population, there really is no good reason the government would want me busted. I’m not politically active, and I don’t think anybody is mad at me. So, I’ll probably stay free.

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nisar ebrahim rathodsays:

Well if the location’s are recorded or the privacy e’s being wiretap may sound irrelevant to person with normal regular activities , only otherwise the people with nefarious ; irregularities would be more concerned about the breach of private conversation.

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americansays:

Your bathrrom have a door? Are your house walls glass? Your hiding something and your nefarious if not. Period

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I need to know where are my other devices that connected to android are because one of them has been missing.

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Vicki Brownsays:

Or figure out the last time you used your mobile device when you can’t findd it and it’s not turned on…

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dikaelo sekwenasays:

hello.my samsung note 3 was stolen last week, when i try track it with locate my device app on samsung account, it doesnt show as its registered in my account. any help to recover my phone will be much apreciated

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Avengerssays:

did you find it?

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Mohamed Aminesays:

What if someone removes Sim card and removes my Google account from my phone? Can I still track my phone?

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Hextiniumsays:

No, Your phone will stop sending data so you will not be able to.

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driversays:

My phone went missing today while I was driving. How can I track my phone. We are in the process of viewing the video tomorrow.

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scubamasssays:

Google is a evil company and tracking you is quite the creepy feeling

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philbosays:

I lost my phone and used Android Lost (or one of the other lost phone apps) that made me sign into my Google account on the phone I was using to remote install the app to my lost phone. When I try to use Location History it only has location points from the time the other phone was signed into so I can’t see where my actual phone might be. My lost phone is on KitKat where apparently the remote SMS is disabled. Is there a way to see the entire location history? Any other advice? I mainly just want the pictures back!

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John Earl Thompsonsays:

this is cool i like it

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marwannuur abdullahisays:

how?
i don’t even know how to use it
do you?
if yes How???

Reply

If you have an iPhone..
>settings>privacy>Location services(On)>share my location
If you have an Android
>settings>Google>Location
>Google location services
(On/Off)

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farooksays:

i loss my xiome redme 2 mobile today and i have only imei number of my mobile is it possible to trace?

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Kirstysays:

Hi can I track my phone even if the location is turned off?

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Christian Liguorisays:

No, I just tried it 🙁

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rockygrovesays:

this is bullshit it so far off from true it says i fly over the city and it repeted say i am some houes i am not at why is that my wife thinks i am banging someone celll phones need satalite gps not cell phone tower bull crap

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linked1says:

Your alter-ego is having an affair and you don’t even know it.

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linked1says:

I personally love this and hope that it saves all of my location and trip info always. I do a lot of exploring and often lose track of specific locations. I frankly don’t give a shit if I’m being tracked, though I could understand some people might. I just wish this history went back further – I’m trying to track down a town I visited in 2013 and my history doesn’t go back that far, even though I’ve had an android phone and a google account since 2009.

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Teà Barsettisays:

I’m just curious if I’m on my Android can I view the google location history of my daughters iPhone? She’s 13 and not always forthcoming with her whereabouts (nothing super serious) I hope its possible because she does enjoy her phone and if I’m not able to, her father says she’s getting an Android! Which I guess isn’t the end of the world… Thanks for any answers.

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Yes, you can set it up to allow others to see your location. Your daughter would have to set her permissions to allow you to see her location (I suppose you could do it surreptitiously, but good luck if she catches you). Go to google maps on a computer and select the slide-out menu on the left and select ‘location sharing’. It will walk you through how to set it up.

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Teà Barsettisays:

Thanks very much. No I don’t intend to be sneaky. If she doesn’t like it then I guess she doesn’t need a phone yet. I survived at her age without one I’m sure she will too. Albeit unhappily. Ty again.

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Karinasays:

Cool and freaking creepy at the same time.

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If you have something to hide or not, privacy is a RIGHT we have as a “free” people. You never know when you if you’ll ever have a time or instance when your anonymity could save your life or way of life. We Americans live in the “post-constitutional era”… “They” don’t even have a problem hiding that fact any more. And why would they when people think it’s “cool” that your communication devices can share your location where ever, when ever.
THE POST-CONSTITUTIONAL ERA! What does that mean to you?

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Katie Delgadosays:

No one else can see your timeline, right?!?!?

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Katie Delgadosays:

I mean besides hackers, the government, and corporations…

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Christian Liguorisays:

Isn’t that enough for you? Log off from any computer other people use..

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Tom Foxsays:

I would love to be able to look at my past data on a spreadsheet

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Hester Bouwersays:

Hi iam Hester you wont beleave how much maps has help me i just love it .

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Isla Kingsays:

Could I ask is it possible to retrive your history if you don’t have the google maps application on your phone. As I used to have the app and then I deleted it for space on my phone and stuck to the regular maps. However, I am dying to know my locations from last friday evening?

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Casey Cantwellsays:

Is it possible for the Location History on your Android device to show a location that I have not visited? There is an address that is in my history numerous times over the past year. When I access my location history on my computer, this address does not appear.

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Liz Kloppenburgsays:

I often turn locations off after seeing whatYour Timeline showed. I want to find a place I was at a week ago but obviously had my Locations off, as it has nothing to show. Is there a way I can find that?

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Vipin Tewatia Tewatiasays:

My Android phone has been lost. I tried to find my timeline. But I don’t found. How I find it.

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foss77says:

I have everything turned on and it says I went nowhere yesterday. I, along with millions of other people, were on the road for a very long time due to travel for the eclipse. Why does my phone say I have no locations?

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Christian Liguorisays:

Because you probably didn’t have Mobile Data turned on.

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