Google Maps Timeline Data to be Stored Locally on Your Device for Privacy

Cyber Security

Jun 06, 2024NewsroomData Encryption / Privacy

Google has announced plans to store Maps Timeline data locally on users’ devices instead of their Google account effective December 1, 2024.

The changes were originally announced by the tech giant in December 2023, alongside changes to the auto-delete control when enabling Location History by setting it to three months by default, down from the previous limit of 18 months.

Google Maps Timeline, as the name implies, helps users track routes, trips, and places they have been to over time, assuming Location History and Web & App Activity settings are enabled.

But with the latest change to host the data on users’ devices, the company has also said that it’s removing the ability to view them on the web.

“Since the data shown on your Timeline comes directly from your device, Timeline won’t be available on Maps on your computer after your data is moved to your phone,” Google noted in a support document.

The updates, it added, are gradually rolling out to all users of the Google Maps app. Users are also being asked to turn on backups to save an encrypted copy of the Timeline data on Google’s servers to facilitate transfer when switching devices.

The development is part of a series of changes the company has enacted in response to allegations that the company misled consumers and illegally tracked their movements despite turning off Location History from the account settings by taking advantage of the non-obvious Web & App Activity setting.

“Leaving ‘Web & App Activity’ on and turning ‘Location History’ off only prevents Google from adding your movements to the ‘timeline,’ its visualization of your daily travels,” an Associated Press investigation revealed in 2018. “It does not stop Google’s collection of other location markers.”

Google has since settled with several states in the U.S. over this practice, with the company also opting to pay $62 million to numerous non-profits in April 2024. A similar lawsuit filed in the state of Texas is pending.

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