Was I naive to believe this was even possible in the first place? Probably. I used to think Google were basically good guys, so I thought that when they said something they actually meant it, and I was willing to forgive them for minor mistakes and bad press. This is the first time I actually feel like they've lied to me.
I'll be migrating my personal Google accounts elsewhere. Suggestions are welcome for good alternatives, free/non-free/whatever, that offer effective privacy controls.
I'm in the move away myself. Here's some services I've started using, in many areas I'm still looking for other replacements. Hopefully others can help.
1. E-Mail : protonmail.com, I really like this one, great service.
2. Video Calls : I'm currently using signal to some extent, not very happy though, would really like something like Hangouts.
3. Browser : Firefox
4. Phone : Apple
5. Things I'm still looking for : Google Calender, Drive, Chat, Backup Storage services.
Also install Privacy Badger extension (or other tracker-/ad-blocker) in your browser and block Google Analytics etc.
And for site-owners that use Google Analytics now: there are alternatives, like e.g. Matomo.
For Drive the best alternative I've found is Dropbox. It's not free but at least the business model isn't (yet) about monetizing your data.
To be clear, that's for the free version. You can pay to remove this limit (along with getting some other features).
40m limit is for free accounts. Paid will get you video calls as long as you want to go.
Besides some needed minor UI tweaks, I love Zoom.
Fastmail provides a DavCAL calendar and some storage space with their email offering. They also have a wonderful browser client (much better that gmail at least for me).
For e-mail, calendars, and contacts I’ve migrated over to FastMail. In my opinion the web client and help articles are far superior to Google’s offerings. You can even use your own domain along with 100+ aliases.
For cloud storage I have migrated from Google Drive to iCloud Drive. Obviously this is not FOSS but it gets the job done for me.
There are some Google services that are irreplaceable for me though so I continue to use them. These are Google Maps, Voice, YouTube, Translate, and Docs.
For file syncing, I quite like Dropbox and Syncthing.
I've moved to Nextcloud. It is completely open source, but you need to run it on your own server. Since it's provided in a Snap package, setup only takes a few minutes. I personally use a $5 per month Linode, but many people opt to use something like a Raspberry Pi.
Having your own server also allows you to ditch third party email and VPN providers, though those are more complicated to set up.
I remember that ~20 years ago we called input boxes that remembered your past searches, "intelligent". Yet one of today's top AI companies, can't even do it.
Protonmail for email
As far as android is concerned the only real alternative is apple. They have their own privacy concerns but at least its possible to create a relatively secure device. Android has a few projects being worked on to fix this, but nothing solid yet (eelo is a good example).
Maps is the hard one for me. I haven't been able to find a privacy respecting alternative. By the nature of the application you have to provide some kind of location data. If you're really trying to cut it out you can just get a list of directions from a start to end point and follow that, but i don't recommend this because it encourages more distracted driving.
DuckDuckGo.com for search, at a g! to any query to have it redirect to google if you can't get the results you need, but most things DDG will find just fine.
For documents I use an skinned emacs called Spacemacs, but that isn't something i'd recommend to everyone and doesn't address problems like live document editing with others.
tl;dr its just really, really hard and inconvenient to keep your data under your control and requires constant vigilance
Edit: Oh and signal works really well for text. It can replace the default messenger on an android phone and encrypt any messages to other signal users transparently while still sending and reading regular texts
1. I use puretalkusa.com's $20/month phone plan. It comes with 20MB of data per month, then throttles.
2. Disabled Cellular Data
3. Disabled WIFI
4. Never setup or signed in to my Google account from the phone.
5. Disabled anything that gave me any pause about privacy, including Location services.
6. Covered the fingerprint reader with electrical tape.
And still, the other day my phone decided to reboot itself in the middle of the day. I only know this because it played a little jingle. After the reboot, Location services was enabled again. Hmm... I disabled it, but it made me wonder if this wasn't some kind of forced reboot so someone could ping my location. This has happened once before, in the middle of the night - a good time to find out where someone lives.
I love showing iPhone users the section in Settings where all their location history is. Most have no idea it's there.
And Apple doesn’t track you. They cycle identifiers regularly for exactly this reason.
Spreading falsehoods about this being something everyone does is harmful because it normalizes the abusive behavior from those that actually do.
All of that server traffic is logged (by both Apple and your carrier), and can be requested by law enforcement if needed. Regardless of what Apple marketing and lawyers would like you to think, your phone is being tracked in real time, always. Always.
I’m aware of Apple’s geocoding service. It uses an encrypted connection, so the server traffic is not ‘logged by your carrier’, and they use transient identifiers so your location is not ‘logged by Apple’ and can’t be ‘requested by law enforcement if needed’.
Carriers are a different matter, but don’t make stuff up about Apple.
But Apple is not.
Nowhere does it say anything about apple tracking people.
What’s your point?
If you are going to just claim they are lying, you are the one who needs evidence.
Why wouldn't this apply to corporations? To (legal) entity?
Corporations and their lobbyists spend a lot of time, money, and effort claiming they are "people". For example, with respect to their "free speech" -- meaning, lately, unlimited spending on political campaigns.
Well, ok then, I would propose that they can stalk, like people.
Oh, but wait, there's the catch. They've already beaten me, with their outsized pocketbooks, to the very people who would legally define this.
In the U.S., at least, the law is a _____. Pardon my, albeit self-censored, decidedly improper language. But sometimes, crudeness is the rhetoric of clarity -- in all its unpleasantness and offensiveness.
For me it is just depressingly hopless: as soon as I go on the Internet of phone network, I have given up a lot of privacy.
The current controversy is whether Google keeps a history of your location data tied to your Google account when you ask them not to. It turns out there are two different places they record it, so you have to disable both.
Separately there is the question of whether Google can get your location data from your phone at all. On your iPhone, you can specify "Never", "While using", or "Always" for Google Maps' access to your location.
If you specify "While using" and force quit the app, no, they can no longer access your location.
I do not know for certain, but suspect, that if you use the home button or multitouch gesture to leave Google Maps, it's still effectively being "used" and thus can still access your location.
I didn't mean 'remove' from the front page, but merge it with the other post and leave it in position on the front page... wow, you guys.
It's common knowledge that the biggest internet ad company likes your data and wants it for its recommendation systems.
If you want to turn off Location History, which is a feature, a product in itself, you can.
If you don't want your searches to be tracked, use another engine like DuckDuckGo or Qwant. If you still want Google, you can disable the location tracking. In addition, they provide a tool to see exactly what they store and you can delete any entry.
Also, of course Maps will want to know your location, you can turn off your GPS anyway. The only troubling point is the storage of the location at the opening for no reason I don't know if you can disable this.
This is example #687 of why not to trust Google or any other surveillance capitalist.
I had the web and app activity turned off, never received this email.
Companies are not above law, and the gathering and use of personally identifiable information is regulated for a very good reason in our society (I don't think many Americans were thrilled when their info was leaked in the Equifax breach.) Ultimately, consumers should be able to choose products they use freely without worrying about their privacy being automatically violated. It might not be the case today, as this article shows, but so was establishing a cartel to charge consumers exorbitant prices and bully competition out of business also an acceptable business tactic for most of the 19th century, before anti-trust legislation was enacted.
So I think it's good that reporters an are taking issue when companies engage in questionable practices when applying their users' privacy preferences. Like Google here not stopping collecting a profile of your past locations, even if you turn off a privacy setting titled "Location History".
What's more regrettable in my opinion is that piece is inflated in comparison to something like the Equifax scandal because:
1. This is a service you opt in to use (there's competition), you can opt-out off the tracking in 3 clicks, and your data is safe (so far)
2. Equifax leaked the SSN of millions who haven't even subscribed to their service
Anyway, I agree, we can still improve customer privacy and transparency.
Yes, if you know where to click! But would you have known without reading this that disabling "Location History" does not actually .. well .. disable location history?
If you want to turn off Location History, which is a feature, a product in itself, you can.
They never claimed "Turn this off if you don't want to share your location in any of the Google services you use. There actually is a control panel for your global settings.
"Google is saving your searches and other Google activity. Google is also saving activity such as which apps you use, your Chrome history, and which sites you visit on the web."
I don't see why a reasonable reader would interpret that as building extensive location history. (Well, excluding "because they don't trust Google", which is kind of the point.)
Second, on the Activity Commands, you just have to click on the link to See More and it's explicitly stated that the location is stored.
I'm going, on browser, to Privacy -> Your Privacy Controls -> Go To Privacy Checkup -> Start Now. On that screen, Web & App Activity has an overall toggle, a checkbox for including Chrome history and data from sites and apps that use Google services, and a Manage Activity link. There's no GPS icon shown, I genuinely have no idea what the checkbox does (that description covers everything I expect from 'Web & App Activity', so what's left if the toggle is on and the box is off?), and the whole thing is sitting right next to the Location History control in a way that strongly implies location data is in the second area.
The Manage Activity link brings me to a further page with searches and app activations listed, but the description still says nothing about location and I still don't see a GPS icon. I can't check specific searches, because I have this feature turned off. (I turned it on to test, but it doesn't update live.) I don't see Activity Commands or See More anywhere at all.
I also found a second, distinct page called Activity Controls from the privacy menus, with the same toggle/checkbox/manage options but a different description of what the feature does! (The text next to the checkbox is the same, and still completely unclear to me.) No GPS icons or use of the word 'location' here either.
I admit that each of those descriptions mentions Google Maps, but they do so in the context of autocomplete and faster/smarter searches. It looks for all the world like this page is about populating my Maps history by my past searches (which I do want) and not populating it by my location (which I don't want).
So, yes, this feature can be turned off. And I believe you that the specific searches have GPS data if you've got it turned on. But I just spent 20 minutes trying to find any sign that location data is stored here other than opening the details on specific links, using Google's recommended privacy-preservation feature, with instructions from other people, and still failed. This seems like a pretty exotic version of 'transparency'.
I read the ones from yesterday, including the AP that started the "scandal". The problem is that since Cambridge Analytica, any piece of privacy issue gets a clickbaity headline for little reason just to get viral, play with fear and emotions, and drive traffic. All of that for ads money from Google. Full circle.
On this story: Headline is "Google tracks users who turn off location history
", sub-headline is "Pretty sneaky", but actually in the article : "We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time".
> Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you open the Maps app
> Automatic weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where a user is
> Searches that have nothing to do with location pinpoint precise longitude and latitude of users
A day in the life of a BigAdCo surveillance apologist:
1. Claim it's obviously easy to disable the tracking behavior.
2. Claim the tracking behavior is absolutely necessary for feature X.
3. Claim that someone else would do the track tracking / is doing the tracking, so BigAdCo must do it to compete. [Notice how this conflicts with 4].
4. Claim that users could just use the competition. [Notice how this conflicts with 3].
I'm 100% confident that IPhone weather app updates automatically the weather for my home town. It doesn't need my personalized location, just the location for my home town.
Should it use your location to contextualize your query for "pizza near me?" If so, does that mean your browsing history has to be redacted so that it isn't possible later to infer your location from your selection of a candidate restaurant?
I think different people will have different opinions about what constitutes a "cumulative location profile." Google's definition makes intuitive sense to me personally but I can see how there might be other points of view on it.
I can understand the public outrage, but on HN it surprises me that almost everyone seems to think this is a clear case of pure evil.
(To that portion of the world that knows your Gmail account and password, and if you were traveling in China and accessing your email account then yeah your contacts would also be transmitted to China.)
I just can't believe the higher-quality clientele that used to be Hacker News are eating this up like this. I guess we're all human after all.