If you thought being able to download your entire Google search history or tracking your friends Facebook movement via an unofficial add-on was freaky enough then prepare to be amazed, or horrified at the new Google Timeline tool.
Google have unveiled their latest tool that allows you to see a history of your whereabouts and movement, that is of course if you have an Android phone.
Big brother is watching
Yes, that’s right, your every movement has been being recorded even when your data or Wi-Fi connection are switched off, as long as you have GPS on. Not only does the new Google Timeline feature show where you’ve been but it more times than not shows how long you spent there before going somewhere else.
Pinpoints all the locations you’ve visited.
If that doesn’t sound big brother enough if you spend any time in an actual location that is known to Google such as a restaurant, train station or other landmark it pinpoints that location on the map.
The feature is amazing in one sense and a privacy issue on another. You can access Timeline by visiting the Google Timeline website. I assure you if you’re anything like me you’ll find it fascinating and spend the next 30 minutes or more amazed that it has tracked you at all the locations you’ve been. It will be especially interesting to those who travel internationally pinpointing where you went, how long you spent there and often the route you took.
Sadly (or thankfully depending on how you look at it) your location is not tracked when you have Airplane mode enabled so you can’t track any flights you took but you can of course pinpoint the point of entry you made to any country with Airports one of the location types marked off. A quick double click of a location even reveals the rough route you took.
It even knows which route you took!
Yes, I find the tool fascinating but, on the other hand, there is an obvious privacy concern. Google state that your Timeline history is private to you and while that is likely to be true, it’s private to you as long as you don’t share your account details with anyone else… or you don’t have your account hacked… or God forbid Google themselves don’t get hacked.
How secure is Google Timeline and how you can disable it
It’s probably about as secure as Ashley Madison was and if you haven’t heard of the Ashley Madison fiasco that happened recently then let’s just say those who partake in extramarital activity just had all their details stolen in a mass hack… I’ll say no more.
While I find the tool amazing in some regards and can think of a ton of positive uses such as tracking a missing child or keeping tabs on an older relative with memory issues there are more sinister possibilities such as a paranoid husband or wife checking up on their spouse.
Technology is never 100% and although my own history seemed pretty accurate there is always room for errors. An angry husband (or wife) who can’t pinpoint their other half could end up unleashing some violence upon them and while we can’t regulate technology solely because there are some unhinged individuals, sadly technology sees the best and worst of society.
The good news is after you’ve spent a good portion of your working day killing time salivating over the feature and calling it out at every opportunity to tell it (in your mind) that you’ve never been to XYZ place only to then remember and realise you had (or perhaps this was just me) then you can disable the tracking altogether. Just follow the simple steps below.
- Goto My Account at Google.
- Click Account History.
- Find Places you go and turn it off.
… and if you did no travelling one day? well, Google knows that too and will pinpoint how many hours you just stayed at home without moving!