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Google loves to track you (and has the Maps to prove it!)

Google Maps

Google loves to track you. You can feel the corporate glow emanating from their HQ every time you switch on location services. Now they know where you are and probably also what you are up to….

Google Maps is certainly a handy creation. Easy to look up something even in the most obscure of locations, it will seldom let you down. But let’s say you are looking generally for restaurants in a certain area, why does it ask you to switch on location services? You know where you are so if restaurants were just highlighted with a big X, all would be fine. But that pernicious and ever-present prompt is there and the vast majority of us will allow location services to be turned on without questioning its relevance or purpose. So now Google will guide you safely to your restaurant of choice. But is that the best choice? Maybe, maybe not as Google will only indicate restaurants which have paid ads. 

But who cares? Well, you should!

Everything that Google does is interconnected. It will be using your location data as you make your merry way to the restaurant to determine traffic flow for its live traffic reports. Once your “permission” is given, your location can be shared with many other apps. Unlike your opinions or comments on social media, your movements are data in its purest form, the mother lode for advertisers. But just because you “trust” Google’s data privacy policy, there is no guarantee that those other apps, such as your weather app for instance, will not do anything bad with this data. It could be that your employer will get to know where you are and what you are doing during your own time. Retail outlets will be monitoring you inside stores and if you are overseas, foreign governments which have little regard for your privacy and will readily track you if location services are switched on and accessible.

So unless your phone is using a navigation app, it really does not need to know where you are, where you have been and where you are going, right?

Some would argue that Google’s search capabilities and technical innovations can only be good for the general advancement of the internet. But on the other hand, its data collection activities and how it handles our personal information poses a serious threat to everyone’s privacy. Given that they hold such a massive amount of personal data, it comes as no surprise that law enforcement are knocking at Google’s door with an abundance of warrants. There were 75,000 requests in the first half of 2019 alone looking for details of emails, location data and what users have been searching for. Not wanting to miss out on squeezing the last buck out of your data, Google have now decided to start charging fees for complying with each warrant. Prices range from $45 to $265, trifling amounts for a company which has such a huge market valuation and healthy cashflow.

Certainly Google is good at what it does but the anti-trust investigations which are currently on-going in the US, do indicate that this type of market dominance may not be in the best interests of consumers. So could any other entity actually replace Google in part or as a whole? Or, perhaps it has just become too big and with so much reliance upon it, such a proposition appears impossible.

However, Google followed the 'Order of the Trade Wars' and banned Huawei from using Google services, framework, PlayStore and Apps. Moves by the US Department of Commerce to leave Huawei out in the cold appear to be backfiring as the Chinese manufacturer in rushing to create its own version of the Google platforms by luring app developers with large amounts of cash. Moreover, for the mapping function on their devices, they have taken on TomTom’s services. This tech is already available for Android and iOS as the TomTom Go app. It offers much more than Google Maps with drivers aids such as information on speed limits, speed cameras and road blocks. Huawei is very successful in the huge Chinese market and it appears to be managing just fine as it moves away from Google.

For Lineage users ot Pure Android Users without Google Services installed there is a great and spy free app called OSMand~ which allows you to use Offline Maps and it's available on f-droid.

Google has evolved in a free market and no matter how unethical some of its practices have become, consumers have made their choice and continue to use it' services. 

However, as alternatives arise and the general public becomes more aware of their rights with regard to privacy, hopefully there will be a gradual shift away from this dangerous giant.

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