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Google Maps won't let you save home address without allowing all Google tracking (twitter.com)
996 points by technocracy 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 355 comments



I'm not sure why people are surprised. Google has been downright evil for quite a while now. They do this in all their products, down to the point of intentionally crippling them.

For instance, since Android 5, the standard contact app doesn't allow you to modify a contact which is not synced with an account. Why even do this? The list of tracking settings that can be turned permanently on, but only temporarily off is ever growing. At some point, you just give up because it's such a silly waste of time. Google knows this very well.

Almost all the google websites, except google search, work badly on anything except chrome. I mean, google groups is rotten already on chrome, but just try it on firefox for the full experience.

Maps (the website) used to be a game-changer in the past. It was insanely fast. Nowdays I hate it. The UI is just horrid. On Firefox it just misbehaves constantly. I only use it for streetview, and still I'm appalled at how badly it has evolved.

They are pushing still impressive libraries and tools. But there's not a single of their products I still like to use.


A bit of a side note, but we should avoid saying things like "not sure why people are surprised" or similar, like in a few other comments.

It is true that Google has done this several times over, but we shouldn't normalize it as nothing new, move on. We should still call it out each and every time we see it, even if we are repeating ourselves. Also, what might be obvious to our community is not to those outside, which in the end are the majority.


Comments that say "this is not a surprise" have a strong subtext of "I told you so" and "I knew this all along, but you didn't", whether the author realizes it or not.

They're usually made so the authors feel better about themselves, but they have a very negative effect on the rest of the community reading them as it gives them a sense of powerlessness.

I always try to counteract such comments with 2 arguments:

1) it may not be news to you, but it's probably news for a lot of other people. Most people have their own real-world issues to think about, they don't wonder about for hours every day on what Google may be doing against them while utilizing Google's services. Most people are trusting and think company X (or their government) "wouldn't do evil thing Y" to them. Of course, they're usually wrong. Company X/government would absolutely do that evil thing Y to them if they are not vigilant or it benefits them monetarily or otherwise.

2) Something is still news if it happens again or it gets escalated to a higher degree of aggressiveness from that company X/government. Should we all hear about something evil Google has done once and be done with it? Then make our choice whether or not to trust them and use their services forever? Of course not. These things need a "build-up" period before a decision is made. This is why the expression "breaking the camel's back" exists, and it's what happened now with Chrome 69 and these new issues coming up. It's only now that people have said "Okay, are you f-king serious now, Google?! I've let your shit slide in the past, but no longer!"


> We should still call it out each and every time we see it, even if we are repeating ourselves.

Seems like the right response would be to stop using the problem products. If you think you can't afford to, I hope you like Google. This is in no way surprising.


Yep. I’m not using Google for anything anymore and have to say, the inconvenience is very minor. The rest of the web still syncs fine (IMAP, CalDAV etc.)

Only YouTube is irreplaceable, and you need an account to save videos and subscribe to channels. Luckily a throwaway Google account with BS info and a temporary backup e-mail address is easily created every 3 months.


> Luckily a throwaway Google account with BS info and a temporary backup e-mail address is easily created every 3 months.

Sigh! Google makes phone verification compulsory when you try to create the Google account (mandatory to use Google products).


Maybe not for the first offense. That's why we should repeat it.


The new Gmail, Adwords, and Analytics run horribly slow in FF, so I have a separate Chromium portable installation simply for those pages. It's so annoying that Google only cares how their own products run in Chrome.


I can confirm that Google Ads and G Suite support reps ask you "what browser are you using?" as one of their first queries. The response in my head is always "why the fuck would that matter?" but what comes out of my mouth is usually "Chrome" even when it's Firefox because my issues have never, ever been browser related.

Here's how it should go:

Me: Hey support, feature X isn't working for me.

Google: What browser are you using?

Me: Firefox

Google: Ok, thanks for reporting a bug in our software. We'll address the issue with Firefox and get back to you.

What actually happens:

Me: Hey support, feature X isn't working for me.

Google: What browser are you using?

Me: Firefox

Google: Please use Google Chrome


> The new Gmail, Adwords, and Analytics run horribly slow in FF, so I have a separate Chromium portable installation simply for those pages. It's so annoying that Google only cares how their own products run in Chrome.

Reminds me of when Microsoft used to optimize it's products for Windows and other OSs were an afterthought...


That's still the case.


That might be but I'm using dotnet core and vscode on Linux now and except autocomplete being weaker than I'm used to in Java and config files being a mess, -both of which are true on Windows as well, I haven't found a single thing to complain about.

And while I have stopped trusting MS (again) after their recent browser failure it seems they are very much trying to sell software and services on all platforms.


Not only that, when opened all day long, it can slows Firefox to a temporary freeze. Bloody annoying.


I feel the same way, and it makes me sad. I was so bullish on Google when I first got a job and investing my savings, bought into the company when it was still Google. I thought the rebrand to Alphabet was a good idea like everything Google, though their abandonment of 'Don't be Evil' planted the first seed of doubt. What made that doubt grow was that I use Youtube as a customer and... well. I'm sure you've seen the same decline.

I finally divested this Spring after giving Google six months to come out with something that would reawaken my old optimism. Besides coming out with a mean go engine, all the news out of Google in that time was depressing.

I'm frankly surprised at how easily a true believer like myself could do a one-eighty in their opinion of the company. I know there's a possibility that they turn this thing around and I look foolish, but they'd have to do that without my cheerleading.


OP here on a different device, a lot of people have been asking about my beef with Youtube, so I'll try and put what I noticed in a timeline.

1. Youtube comes out with the promise of revolutionizing video, I immediately love it because of its idiosyncrasy and unpredictability. Despite low production values, the videos are varied enough that I can always find something interesting and the algorithm is quite good at suggesting things I'll like. 2. Google acquires youtube, whether because of more money or improving the algorithm, the offerings get even better 3. Youtube merges with google+. 4. Youtube hires new management and begins modeling itself after the old cable companies whose lunch it had 'till now been happily eating. 5. Youtube's algorithms progressively play it safer with their recommendations, the youtube personalities I follow either become more mainstream (Joe Rogan) or increasingly complain of being arbitrarily demonetized (Phillip Defranco). 7. Present day

If you use Youtube as a substitute for television, it might not look like a decline. But I find television generally boring, and Youtube seemed to promise a general improvement. With a better algorithm for suggesting videos and a less hostile relationship to creators it still could be, but for years now it's been moving in the opposite direction on both counts.


Can you elaborate on the problem with YouTube? Other people have mentioned it too here. I use it pretty frequently and it seems to work the way it always did, more or less. Hell, they don't even bug me with original content recommendations the way they did briefly (and the way Netflix continues to).


Maybe he is referring to things like the weird videos for kids that emerged from monetization: https://medium.com/@jamesbridle/something-is-wrong-on-the-in...


The recommendation algorithm seems to radicalise people politically. There is some research on this - Zeynep Tufekci is the best communicator of it. Overview in the New York Times.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/opinion/sunday/youtube-po...

There are flaws in the algorithm - 1) for scaling reasons it doesn't run full deep learning over everything, but uses a simple popular-only algorithm first. 2) it is optimised for next video watch time, which is a very shallow measure of what the user really wants long term.

https://www.quora.com/How-does-YouTubes-recommendation-algor...


Not OP, but I posted a comment regarding YouTube for mobile here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18075895


Interesting, I haven't ever used YouTube mobile web (despite generally preferring to use web to native when possible) because I've never found it up to snuff, presumably for technical reasons. I wasn't aware the quality had declined. Thanks for the info!


What's wrong with YouTube?


Separate from the recommendation problems, which seem to vary by person, the site has gotten substantially worse for mobile players, to the point I've almost entirely stopped using it:

- The mobile page does not allow quality selection, and always selects quality options far below what would be supported by your connection (It sometimes drops to 240p, and I have not seen it select anything above 480p, yet can easily stream 1080p on the desktop site or other players).

- The mobile page does not respect the "Request Desktop Site" option, even in Chrome - and neither does their own "Desktop Site" link; Both still use the abysmal mobile player, and only by enabling both can you use a high-quality video player.

- Anything 60fps has issues on my mobile device, while other web players are fine - even 720p60 lags, while I can stream 1080p60 elsewhere.

I uninstalled the app years ago when it requested additional permissions with an update, and implemented a 30-second delay (with countdown!) before launching until I updated. YouTube is no longer the pinnacle of web video, and have not been for years.


Does it select low quality when you're on Wi-Fi, or on cellular?


That's a good point - I pretty much always use cellular, so I wonder if the quality cap for the mobile player is there as a misguided attempt to reduce data usage. Would make it more understandable, if no less irritating.


It could also be throttling via the cellular provider or ISP. Try with a VPN and see if it still happens.


Search for anything, watch the video, then watch the next recommended video. Keep following the recommendations. See where you end up.

If you know exactly what you want to watch it's fine, but the whole browsing/surfing experience sucks.


I agree that if you leave it playing it will go off on a tangent, but I find the list of recommended videos along the right side to be _very_ good. It really does list things I would want to watch based off past viewing and what's currently playing. I find it to be the most useful (only useful?) recommendation engine in any product.


It's good at finding things you'd watch, but not necessarily things you should be watching. Ex-youtube employees said that the algorithm is trained to keep you engaged and watching videos, so the recommended videos keep getting more and more extreme. This isn't really an issue with music because it just ends up at more niche artists, but if you watch a political video and keep following its recommendations, eventually you end up wathcing extremist left/right wing propaganda. Sure, it's something you don't mind watching once you get there, but it's not necessarily something you would have wanted to watch before the youtube algorithm led you there. Again, this is how the algorithm was described by an ex-youtube employee, not just a casual user.


In addition to those technical options, they have been substantially reducing revenue to producers and their algorithms have been shifting popular videos out of visible areas. Often popular producers will see sudden losses in their incomes.

Videos are not enough to sustain, they're like apps; a part of a larger revenue model. This disincentivizes smaller, interesting producers and pushes the platform to be more like network television was, with handfuls of large, conventionally attractive people.

I don't find it terrible at all now, but i hope it doesn't keep going in this direction. It's currently a wonderful resource for people who want to do all kinds of things from home and garden improvements, to cooking, improve mental and physical health, etc. Far closer to the utopian dreams of early internet enthusiasts than most other sites.


I find it almost impossibly difficult to find older videos now.


They've also removed the video title from the web page title. It just says YouTube. This makes browser history useless.


I completely agree on the Maps experience. These days I'm constantly annoyed by it. When I search for a place the map jumps around like crazy, causing me to lose track of my current focus area and my points of interest from previous search. Not to mention the hiccups on 3rd party browsers.

There was a post on HN a while back which compares Google Maps with traditional paper maps. It had a lot of insights I wish I could find it.


I use maps heavily for restaurant recommendations and tracking. This involves staring and tagging places all over Chicago. Maps will barely run on my phone at this point. I expect it to crash once or twice while I'm using it. I know I use the product in a memory heavily way but it's still very frustrating because I don't expect this to ever be addressed.


> Maps (the website) used to be a game-changer in the past. It was insanely fast. Nowdays I hate it. The UI is just horrid. On Firefox it just misbehaves constantly.

No kidding there. If you leave it alone for a few minutes (that is, not scrolling, zooming, clicking anything), it will give you a Black Window of Death.


Maps is insanely laggy on my Xiaomi Redmi note 4x. THis is with the performance kernel configuration on with GPU running 100%. Its just horribly optimised and has so much clutter now.

Does anyone know a decent alternative? (please don't say waze)


HERE Maps or one of the OSM-based apps (maps.me, OsmAnd) depending on map quality where you live.


I've heard good things about maps.me, but I've only used it briefly. The quality depends a lot on your location.


Have you tried Open Street Maps? You can get their app from F-droid.

Edit: Maps (Offline OpenStreetMap maps) - https://f-droid.org/app/com.github.axet.maps


"Maps" is the Maps.me app but without the adverts and tracking.

For the record OpenStreetMap doesn't have one official app. It doesn't even have any "official" apps. People use OSM data to make other maps.


I've been using OSMAnd+ for a while now and it's awesome. Offline maps, navigation with voice prompts, pretty much everything you expect, and it doesn't spam your location to a third party. Yay!


It's also available in the play store for $8.99. I just bought it to give it a try. Thanks for introducing it to me!


I am constantly and genuinely confused about why people care just so damn much about other people's privacy.

What is it about privacy that bothers people so much more than the myriad of other violations that take place across the world, and what makes the fact that corporations are committing this sin so much worse than when individuals do it?


But the funny part is Google keep your saved addresses. It only block the access.

If you have your home and/or work address set in Gmaps, and you disable all tracking in myactivity.google.com. The address will disappear and GMaps will invite you to reactive App and Web tracking. If you do it, your saved addresses will reappear. This is slightly dodgy.


> This is slightly dodgy.

It is punitive. They are (and are within their rights to) withholding value because you aren't giving them what they want, which is mineable activity information.

I notice that there are always cartoons of happy users getting additional useful features from their services when tracking is enbled, but never cute cartoons of the other actors extracting value based upon advertising etc. Truth In Condescending Explain-o-Toons, now! etc.


I completely understand, it's in their right, absolutely.

However, once you disable the tracking, the UI no longer show the address and even say "Set location" under Home address and Work address. This let you think that Google doesn't have this information, which is false. This makes me feel like Google got info about me and I can't use it. I find this part dodgy. Once you disable a setting it should be clearer that data is not deleted.


Sounds more like a UI bug/oversight than intentional deception.

Google Maps UI has a feature to display your set home address, once you turn off tracking or whatever it no longer has access to that home address in its UI so the default state is to ask you to set one.

If that's the case then the real problem would be that the address data is siloed off somewhere in your Google account under maps and isn't accessible to be changed/cleared from your general account settings.


I disagree. When they say "you can only use this feature by opting in our programs that allow you to track us". A lot of people would think that most Google tracking doesn't happen when you don't opt in.

This example shows that that most likely isn't true, since when you disable that setting, they keep all data anyway.

I think it's more of a UX dark pattern where they act like "we only track you if you specifically allow us", but if you don't allow them they will track you anyway, they just do it all behind the scenes.


> They are (and are within their rights to) withholding value because you aren't giving them what they want, which is mineable activity information.

Seems like a clear violation of GDPR which specifies that collection of additional data except as required to provide the service must be voluntarily.

And no - ads/tracking doesn't count, and no - it is not voluntarily if they punish you for not accepting it.


This is dangerous ground to tread for Google.

If data were kept in this fashion under a GDPR right to erasure request, Google would face some hefty fines.


I do belive that requests are all or nothing, not that I can delete only particular bits and keep using the service with all other info intact.


> It is punitive. They are (and are within their rights to) withholding value because you aren't giving them what they want, which is mineable activity information.

What I don't understand is when we started expecting _anything other than this_ in a commercial transaction. Google's whole thing is they give out services in exchange for information.


You and I know that, but that's not what it says on the tin.


There is another interesting thing. You need to allow google tracking if you want to do searches in google maps. If you block it maps will crash. Turns out it needs a proper country code to work, regardless of where you're searching.


Really? I got everything disabled in myactivity.google.com (except YouTube history, I need this), but I can still do searches in Maps.

Have you tried from another device or browser?


That could be related to how Google maps shows political borders depending on what county you are from.

https://www.fastcompany.com/3058283/why-google-maps-shows-yo...


Works for me ..


Also of note: On the maps app, saved home and work locations are unavailable any time you have the location function disabled. Allow maps access to your location, and suddenly all saved locations are once again visible.


In a way stuff like this and the recent news that they don't delete their own cookies from Chrome when deleting all cookies could be good news. It seems to become clearer and clearer that Google is getting desperate to squeeze more and more data out of people in order to sell that data. Hope they will lose their good guy image because now they are just another big greedy company like all others. Nothing wrong with that though. It's just good for people to realize that.


Why on earth would you think Google would sell its most valuable asset? Google does not sell user data, it builds on it. The more data they get, the better and better their AI will develop.

Looking back, when they announced they were going to become an AI-first company these sort of drastic data-grabs and privacy issues should have been apparent. But hindsight is 20/20...


%s/sell/monetise/g

You know what they meant. Google is milking users for all data they can derive from their activity and creating value from that. It's not so much the use of the data that's the problem as the lengths they go to to create that data.

I recall someone from one of the major tech companies talking about how their users "emit data", implying the data just happens and their role is purely passive with the users practically handing them that data. That's a perverse way of looking at it when you contrast it with e.g. the GDPR's premise that data belongs to the user and companies need (withdrawable) consent to collect and process it.

In the US tech companies don't collect user data, users "emit" it -- even if the only reason the data is "emitted" is because the tech is actively spying on its users' every move.


That in and of itself is the sole reason Google doesn't bug me as much as some other networks (Facebook comes to mind).

They provide a lot of value, but in the end, I think a lot of their products will eventually use market and mindshare.


I believe it's now common to use "sell your data" as a synonym of "make profit off data" or "sell a service that gives anonymized data".


That may be an explanation, but IMO there's a huge difference between the two, and putting both concepts under the same wording is dangerous. Selling data means surrendering any and every control over it, and if from a user (trust) perspective there's no difference to offering a service based on data, companies will choose the more lucrative one.


I agree that there is a difference. But in both cases we have a company sucking up as much data as it can and even if it doesn't sell the data today they still have it and can decide to sell it tomorrow. Or be forced by governments.


There's a difference. But in practice the difference doesn't matter.

As a user you expect a reasonable level of privacy unless the software explicitly requests your consent for providing certain information or explicitly asks you to provide that information manually. If the software then hands that information off to a third party you expect that only to happen with explicit consent.

The problem in this case is that Google isn't interested in consent. It tries to get as much information as it can without needing to ask for consent and when it does ask for consent it's through coercion by tying that consent request to actions that are not reflective of the scope of the request ("You want to save your home location? Okay but in order to do that we need to be able to track your every move forever").

That's arguably far more malicious than explicitly saying "please let us share this info with company XYZ so we can continue offering this service for free". That most companies selling data to third parties aren't so explicit about it is irrelevant -- this is just about the claim that "selling data" is inherently more malicious than what Google is doing.

That said, no, selling does not mean "surrendering any and every control over it". GDPR and friends specifically address that by stating that the human being the data is about continues to own that data and can withdraw consent at any time (at any depth of sharing).


There is a difference, and in practice as in theory, it matters a lot. You can delete your data on your Google account - that gets rid of your data. Deleting that data after it was sold to 3rd parties is like trying to delete your drunk party picture from the internet. Sure, you can try to invoke GDPR, but that's going to be hard when the data was sold to some Chinese company that doesn't operate financially in Europe.


You don't seem to comprehend the fact that in the scope of the GDPR they can't sell to "some Chinese company" without your consent.

If you can only explain why selling is worse by creating a scenario where the selling is done without consent or in an equally malicious/shady way, that doesn't demonstrate that selling is inherently worse.

Selling isn't worse. Selling without regard for a user's rights is bad. But Google is already engaging in abusive behavior as far as users' rights are concerned.

Also, I know this is hard to understand if you're not used to real privacy laws, but if a company sells your data and you invoke your rights against the company, it's the company's responsibility to go after whoever they sold the data to, not yours.


I think this is a critical point of misunderstanding:

> if a company sells your data and you invoke your rights against the company, it's the company's responsibility to go after whoever they sold the data to, not yours.

Can you point me to more details on this? I have my doubts about it.


As a user your contract is with the company you give the data to. That's simply how contracts work. If the contract says they can give that data to someone else, that's fine. If it doesn't, they can't. That shouldn't be surprising.

The GDPR treats personal information as property of the user. Even if access to and processing of that data is permitted by the user, it remains the property of the user. If the company is permitted to also pass that data on, they're still responsible for ensuring the data is handled appropriately.

I'm not sure what you are doubting. The GDPR is (in)famous for this.

This is why GDPR compliance makes it nearly impossible to hand over information to third parties who aren't GDPR compliant and why EU companies are nervous about working with Google and other US companies (because the Privacy Shield is not any more trustworthy than Safe Harbor which died an extremely swift death).

As far as the user concerned there's no difference between you "selling" their data and you handing it over to a third party as a data processor. You can't "sell" it because it's not yours, you can just take money for handing it over -- but that's between you and the third party, the user isn't part of that transaction.

Think of it this way: users can't sell you their data (they literally can't) so the data isn't your property. You can't sell what isn't yours, so the data you hand over to a third party is still owned by the user who gave it to you with the (GDPR-backed) expectation that you're retaining the control necessary to comply with their requests.

FWIW I'm not sure how this works for third-party tracking (e.g. Facebook widgets). Google Analytics avoids this by requiring compliant websites to enable IP anonymization (which supposedly should be sufficient) but liability still resides with the website owner (and the Data Protection Agreement makes this perfectly clear).

As you want sources, here's what a quick Google yields:

https://iapp.org/news/a/threes-a-crowd-third-party-risk-unde...

https://martechtoday.com/gdpr-mean-third-party-data-processo...

https://www.out-law.com/en/articles/2017/november/stricter-c...

And especially this:

http://www.infocore.com/insights/data-privacy-a-marketers-lo...

> Under the GDPR, EU citizens must be given the easy ability to withdraw their consent, often called "the right to be forgotten". If consent is withdrawn, those data subjects have the right to have their personal data erased and no longer used for processing by the data collector, and by any other entity who has ever used or purchased that data.

So in other words: "selling" user data is no different from handing the data to a data processor.

The point of the GDPR is that personal information is something that taints your product's data and therefore something you want to avoid. Selling it to dodgy companies that abuse the heck out of it is exactly what the GDPR is meant to combat.


Unfortunately none of your links referred to the actual legislation and only provide summaries and interpretations, but Article 17 (Right to erasure), Section 2 states:

Where the controller has made the personal data public and is obliged pursuant to paragraph 1 to erase the personal data, the controller, taking account of available technology and the cost of implementation, shall take reasonable steps, including technical measures, to inform controllers which are processing the personal data that the data subject has requested the erasure by such controllers of any links to, or copy or replication of, those personal data.

So there's an obligation to inform. Which makes sense: Assume you (with consent of the user) sell data to some company, you have to forward them the request of said user to be forgotten. But you have no authority over that company. You can report them to any and every authority if they ignore or actively refuse your request, but you as a company have no authority over them. Particularly if they don't operate within the reach of the European authorities, there's little you can do. And that's what I mean with "You surrender control of the data once you sell it".


> they were going to become an AI-first company these sort of drastic data-grabs

I'm appalled every time I'm asked to train Google's object detection networks in the guise of solving a captcha.


Agreed. I didn't mind ReCaptcha when it was helping digitise books because it felt like there was some kind of social benefit beyond padding Google's bottom line (even if that wasn't actually true).

But now when I'm asked to select all the squares containing road signs or storefronts or whatever it feels like I'm being forced to work for Google for free just so I can go about my day.


>Why on earth would you think Google would sell its most valuable asset?

It's such a simple concept, and yet I see people on Hacker News constantly making this mistake. It's as if people are too addicted to outrage culture to even consider the arguments anymore.


Perhaps because it's such verifiable information that makes it rather unique in value when you have people who are able to mathematically predict how those verified people might perform based on behavior history. If you then couple it with "spin" you end up encouraging large amounts of income to be created upon it. Much like predicting the future since you effectively are predicting the future.


"Sell your data" is the widely-accepted common term for the business model of a company that analyzes user data in unfathomable detail in order to charge advertiser Johns more money when that company pimps out their users' minds like sex traffickers pimp out the bodies of prostitutes.


They became the "Alpha Bet" to be AI top dog - betting to be on top....


Google sells user data. They profit amassing data. AI is a nascent technology that Google will happily lead. But until AI is ready, Google will continue to happily sell data - your data, my data, anyone who touches the internet in fact.


They don't have to give the raw tracking data to some other entity. They can sell decisions based on my data they collect.

Then can tell you to try to sell cycle headlamp to me because I have been looking for it in last fews days. I'd say that's selling my data.


They have a (near) monopoly on web search, web ads, web videos, personal email, web browser and mobile os.

They never were the good guy, but I guess they decided to finally stop pretending.


I'm not sure I'd call them desperate looking at the valuation, 20+% revenue growth, and the fact that EU keeps pushing legislation that increasingly cements their dominance against any potential competition in the region.


I want to be able to quickly input my home address into google map but don’t want to turn on google search history so I had to resort to an imperfect solution: use the “text replacement” feature to expand a unique short phrase like “hmad” to the full home address when typed into the google maps search bar.


I use "&&" as the shortcut for for my address, "@@" for my email, and "##" for my phone

For my work address, email, and phone, I just append "w"


This! They used to allow you to, but now I don't save my home address and can't use a lot of Google features because they want you to enable activity tracking. WTF... why do I need all my activity to be tracked to use basic features?


My favorite part has been them pretending they no longer store your address, but when search results on the web places a pin they somehow manage to suggest it's an "x minute drive" from home... Which is it Google? Do you have the address saved or not? You forget where my address is only when it's inconvenient and coercive?


Are you sharing your location? Maybe nothing is stored, but your current location is used for searches you make.


I've had the same results when I've explicitly not shared location.

I will also use Google maps to find the route to some restaurant, turn off the GPS because I don't like being tracked and it's no too far, then head to the restaurant within 10-60 minutes of when I checked the GPS. If I have wifi on I will invariably get asked to rate the restaurant within 5 minutes of arriving there, regardless of how much time has passed since I checked the route.

I currently use a Pixel phone, but based on the experiences I've had, I will be switching to an iPhone in the hope that I get tracked less. After switching to Firefox and ddg as my daily drivers, I just need to get off of Gmail and I will be google free


I would recommend Lineage for a Google-free Android experience.


Don't forget replacing all G logins with custom ones to various places. https://myaccount.google.com/permissions


Are you turning off GPS or all location? Because location can still be enabled when GPS is off. There's location via wifi and via bluetooth.


The location option in the android quick menu. I was unaware there was any other way to even turn off the GPS. I assumed it was wifi since it seems to not happen when the wifi is turned off.

It would have at least been corporate speak to have an option called GPS that people assumed was location tracking and was not. Having an option called "Location" that does not stop your phone from tracking your location when turned off has crossed the line into fraudulent behavior for me


Hmm, that seems to completely turn off all location. So I don't know why google would seemingly still know your location.


All they need to do is see what wifi connections I can reach on my phone. In any urban area you can easily reach 50+ wifi connections standing in one spot. If google knows X wifi connection corresponds to Y range of a physical location because of someone else left their location and wifi on, then they can tell that if I can reach 4 or 5 different wifi connections at once then I must be at a certain address.

It's like browser fingerprinting. It doesn't take very many bits of entropy before you are identifiable


Yeah, I know about using wifi for location. But I think turning the android location setting off disables that (in addition to disabling gps and bluetooth location). These pages indicate that:

https://support.google.com/android/answer/3467281

https://support.google.com/android/answer/6179507


I'd have given you that as a fair point if it hadn't said "x minute drive - home" next to the pin while I was checking a store's location on my work laptop at work (while signed in to my personal account)


Are you saying google's looking at your current location? That sounds to me like it's saying the store is an x minute drive from your home. It says nothing about your current location (work).


"Deleted the address, kept the coordinate pair" ;)

The true reason is probably a little less cheeky: keeping track of copies is hard. And here we end or digression into apologetics and return to criticism, ensuring correctness in keeping track of copies is surely not a very high priority.


If you download your maps data from Google you will see the address is still saved as it was before (in json format).

So the address is still there, they are just actively blocking you from making use of it in most of their apps (but evidently not all of them, as you noted above).


Because they want your data in exchange for access to the service they provide?

I get it, it's frustrating as hell, but I can understand their perspective.


Yes, a simple take it or leave it situation. There are alternatives. I don't get people getting mad because a private corp is doing something with their own software.


Can you uninstall Google Maps from an android phone?

It's because that private corp is so big that it is starting to control much of the internet and devices so this is an issue very much in the public purview.

It's not as simple as take it or leave it. The corp in question spends billions to insinuate itself into your life, make you dependant, eat competition, and then you can take it, but you definitely can't leave it.

Its time for google to be broken up.


Yes, that starts with "leaving it". Though some found my comment above irritating, the more people use these apps or try to make it "their way", these corps won't go anywhere.

Yes, either you take it, or leave it. Imagine everyone leaving google today. They can't make money. People made them rich, people can take them down. If genpop doesn't understand, you have to find your own ways to navigate thru the internet because google won't go away anytime soon.

I would love to hear your opinion about how to take google down, without making people "leave it".


>Yes, that starts with "leaving it"

You're right, but the percentage of Google users aware of how evil they are is probably less than 0.5%.

An overwhelmingly large percentage of users won't care about what could happen as long as nothing happens directly affecting them. Mass surveillance companies like Google, Facebook know this and take advantage of it.

Technology activists aren't strong enough to start a wave that would lead to people abandoning these evil corps..

Also, as others mentioned, they eat up all competition.. so there aren't really any good options left apart from Google products in areas they compete.


[flagged]


> Most people aren't persnickety, anal, border line autistic nerds so Google/Facebook knowing who they know or where they are, when they're using software to tell their friends where they are or are using maps to literally work out where they are right now is just not an issue.

Please don't insult people for caring about privacy.


Not "caring about privacy"; having retarded notions that you can walk around with a tracking device like one might expect a criminal be forced to carry and somehow still have privacy by deleting this cookie or logging out of that service.


Or you can take some and leave some via regulation.


Yes, either you take it, or leave it

That is a false dilemma, because there are more than two choices. To many of us, the third option is the one we choose.


No need to uninstall Google Maps from Android as you don't need to allow tracking for the saving of home to work.

It's odd that Google Maps and Google Assistant both have different methods and rules for the storage of home and work locations.


It depends on how the system is configured. IIRC custom roms need extra steps to get any official Google apps, so it's certainly possible to configure most phones to not have Maps installed. That said, I think most OEM phones do ship with Google's suite of apps configured as "system" apps that really a few more hope to jump through and could potentially result in instability if any OEM designed system on that phone has a built in assumption about the presence of Maps.

tl;dr: Yes, but you might have to jump through some hoops


Just Google?


Yes you can easily uninstall it


Can you please tell us how unless it's a custom ROM/non rooted Android phones? (Not disabling)


Well the original statement is just "an android phone", and majority of Android phones (think China) don't even have Gmaps installed.


Disable == uninstall. It is the same thing as far as package manager is concerned. No code ever runs. No data ever used.


> I don't get people getting mad because a private corp is doing something with their own software.

Maybe it's because they created a situation where it's nearly impossible to avoid "their" software because it's integrated into the product the user actually paid for.

If you buy an Android phone you don't buy bare metal. That's not how Android phones are marketed and it's not how Google wants Android phones to be perceived. An Android phone is a device with Google Play, Google Maps and Google Search integrated into the operating system and providing core services. That's how Google wants you to think about Android and it's in their best interest for you to do so.

From a customer point of view, Google Maps is part of the Android device's core functionality. From a marketer's point of view, it's the same. From Google's point of view, it's also the same.

But although Google Maps itself has great offline functionality and in theory only needs online access for map data, traffic information and optimised routing, Google plays bait and switch by demanding you consent to being spied on in order to actually use it.

Sure, it's their software and they can do what they want but customer rights exist, privacy rights exist and competition law exists. They're being intentionally deceitful and maliciously abuse their position to coerce users into giving consent for providing Google with far more data than they need to provide the service.


You are so right. I am just frustrated that they reached global ubiquity and treated user data as a for-profit product rather than a for-good application.

In the last 18 months, Google transitioned from being a 'build products people will use to enhance their daily lives' company (with Google profiting immensely but for the enhancement of humankind) to a company that is nonchalant in the sale of human data, often to the detriment of their users' experience


It’s not just the past 18 months. Let’s not forget the “force Google+ down everyone’s throats and make every Google product worse by needlessly rerouting important functionality through G+”


What choices? And I mean ones that people would actually use or know about? Apple Maps is basically it, and it's only one one platform. Bing Maps...maybe? But Google has an effective monopoly on consumer based maps.


HERE WeGo (formerly Nokia Maps) is ok for car navigation. Citymapper is nice if you need public transport. OsmAnd is decent as well.

I do think Google Maps is the best, but the choices exist, and for some cases they work even better.


Ask someone in the US who/what "HERE" is, or ask an app developer what mapping API they are using and if HERE is even remotely on the radar. Because, you'll quickly learn that brand penetration, despite operating for a long period of time, is basically 0 in the US. I have tried to implement Bing and OpenStreetMap but customers immediately complain that we're not using Google. Why? Because Google has brilliantly tied marketing of business/AdWords with their map bundle. There's no escape.


maps.me works pretty well, they use open street map data augmented with ad based reccomendations. You download maps so you don’t need wifi to navigate. Best for walking or biking directions, getting better for driving


Maps.me is Russian now. In terms of being spied on maybe not the best alternative.


Because they hate you. What other explanation is there?


Why are people surprised when a company that fundamentally doesn't believe in privacy does these kinds of things?

Edit: quote removed -- see child comments.


Why don't you post the rest of the quote as well?

> I think judgment matters. If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines -- including Google -- do retain this information for some time and it's important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.

Kinda changes the whole context from "secrets are for bad people" to "you shouldn't use Google with anything really secret, because government".

I'm really dismayed that a lot of good people and orgs keep misrepresenting this quote for many years by cutting it out of the context. This doesn't mean that Google is automatically your friend, btw.


Thanks for posting the rest of the quote. I'd remove my comment, but I can't because there are replies. I still think that the company fundamentally doesn't believe in privacy. I will remove the quote at least.


The reality is that I don’t want a search engine in my phone.

Maybe it wasn’t the case when he said that quote, but the story here is they’re trying very hard to blur the line between their services and the device itself, in some very awkward ways that don’t make a lot of sense except except beyond their own business needs


> The reality is that I don’t want a search engine in my phone.

For what it's worth, I've disabled the 'Google' app on my Android phone for a few weeks now, and have experienced no problems. I don't use Google for search, and I already had Chrome disabled too, so all it did was take up some memory and battery, now freed up. All I lost was an extra screen on the mobile "desktop" (which I mostly only accidentally ended up in anyway), and some (generally useless) notifications about "things I might like".


You could've discovered this way back in 1998 by reading Appendix A to Larry & Sergey's Stanford paper:

>"The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users"

http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html


The early Google AdWords ads was at least fairly simple and required little tracking. I mentioned this in the essay/overview.


You've posted about your essays dozens of times now. That's crossing the line into spamming, and other users are complaining. Please stop now.


I try to stay on topic, but sometimes I do make mistakes.


Actually, you've been doing it for many months: https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=yuhong&next=16828059. This is clearly abusive, so if you keep doing it we will have to ban you. No more comments about your essays, please.


I can’t even ask my phone to set an alarm anymore without giving it my entire web and app history.

Google is vulnerable here as they’re creating a very real need for basic alternatives


They’re creating a need, but that doesn’t mean they’re creating a market opportunity. Google has taught everyone that all this stuff should be free, and that’s no accident: it’s a deliberate strategy to suck up all available oxygen away from potential competitors. Someone (Ben Thompson maybe?) described Google’s strategy as not just building a moat, but scorching the earth for hundreds of miles in every direction from their castle. It’s unbelievably difficult to build a direct competitor to Google unless you’re starting from a position of huge capitalization (and even that’s no guarantee... I don’t exactly see techies flocking to Bing after they complain about Google)


This is so fucking true. If anything you can see this in the real marketplace. Consumers have become so averse to paying for software because they see gmail, google maps, google keep, docs and photos as available for “free” - meaning they have to part with something from their life but not the cash, so why the hell pay for anything else?


Even worse than undermining expectations about the price of software, since google's general use apps (gmail, docs, etc.) are Service as a Software Substitute (SaaSS[1]), Google is also undermining the basic concept of buying a copy of software. Even as an intangible good, it's easy to understand the value of owning a copy that you get to keep and use on your own terms. When the same software is only available as a service, availability issues and other risks that outside your control make the service less valuable.

Why should someone want to buy software when most of the software they see and use regularly are unreliable services?

[1] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/who-does-that-server-really-s...



>I don’t exactly see techies flocking to Bing after they complain about Google

I flew to duckduckgo, don't know about flocking...


I think the main barrier is that people are generally unwilling to pay for these products now so it's hard to fund things with anything besides ads. If someone finds other ways to fund it I could see it but for now even with them vulnerable it would be hard to compete with them if you also were funded via ads.


People are paying $1000+ for Pixel phones. I think that should cover the cost of an alarm app.


The thing is, you don't only need an alternative for the alarm app if you want to get rid of GApps.

The hidden costs of apps Google gives you for "free" is probably above $1,000. I guess the majority would give away their privacy for that amount these days.


Do you find it likely that Google is earning over $1,000 from each user? How are they getting that? I'd say the real cost is probably a couple of orders of magnitude lower.


This makes absolutely no sense. How is bunch of very basic userspace programs cost >$1000? Google doesn't even make its own kernel, they just make the userspace. For reference OSX and Windows are much cheaper than $1000 and most linux distros are for gratis and all these systems include more complex programs than a basic alarm app, calculator etc.


Alarm apps don't need tracking. Asking Google Assistant to set an alarm needs tracking.

I wish there was a SaaS application which provided assistant capabilities by a monthly subscription. You can see all the data stored, you own the data the service just creates models to enable use. And you could stop the subscription which wipes all the data including the models. Perhaps some startup founder is reading this?


I'm expecting good things from Snips; they're already build a device like Alexa that runs all recognition locally: https://air.snips.ai/

Making an Android frontend seems easy enough.

(You can also DIY by installing Home Assistant and Snips on a Raspberry Pi or other computer)


Yes, snips is pretty well known in the maker community. They're adding blockchain tech to double down on the whole privacy aspect of it, it seems. Wonder if they can break through to the mainstream.


This looks promising! Thanks, I'll check it out.


The problem is, how does the saas prove to you that you own the data and privacy is not violated? I see no way of doing it unless the customer owns the server.


TOS/Contract. Something like Dropbox. You do believe you own the data on Dropbox right? This is something Microsoft can do as an Azure service to counter Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant maybe.


They pay for similar services when they buy an Apple device. That’s why Apple Maps exists: to give people reasons to buy their hardware. iWork is free and not ad supported when you buy a Mac. Yet, when you buy a Chromebook, are Google Services ad-and-tracking free? Apple has proven that you can do “free” and respect privacy. Is ad-targeting/tracking happening when you use Google Services on a Pixel?


I don't defend Google long slide into hard-core-stalkerdom, but there is a slight price difference between a Macbook Air and a Chromebook. Apple uses hardware income to support software dev costs; Google uses tracking and ads to pay for same and keep device cost low.


I switched my assistant app to Cortana, if you can believe that.

It works well enough, and doesn't require every permission to be enabled. It'll work fine with whatever you give it. (Within reason. It can't give you information about your calendar unless you give it that permission, etc.)

Reminders and such get synced to my PC.

There are, of course, many holes in its functionality... hoping it gets better. Don't know if there's a better assistant app for Android at this point.


How did you completely get rid of Google Assistant on an android phone? Did it involve rooting it?


I didn't get rid of it, it's just not mapped to my home key anymore and isn't otherwise used.


I agree. I'm not concerned with Google's vulnerability, but for most of my own usage, it's pretty low hanging fruit to recreate the basics. Will be interesting to see how things progress.


On my Pixel 2XL, I cannot set temperature to Celsius on my home and lock screen unless I allow this setting.


When I had my Pixel I remember not being able to save reminders or events with the assisstant unless I enabled Google Now Cards, which shoved advertisements and bullshit articles onto my home screen


I remember using Google now cards but stopped after they decided they needed my full history to make them work. I guess I was lucky I missed the advertisement phase.


That made me laugh :)

Would love to see a gif/video of that with rage as a soundtrack :D


The ridiculous part is if you had once had location tracking on before, and had previously set your Home/Work address - Android Auto will still occasionally offer you directions to Home/Work spontaneously, despite Android Auto refusing to let you "Navigate Home/Work" when you attempt to do so on demand?


Dark patterns seem to be becoming standard UX for Google now. I notice so much of it all over their products.


Meaningful reform won’t happen until the wider industry looks at the CVs of ex-Google workers with suspicion that they may be smart but lack a moral compass.


With the "may" being more said more questioning tone each day.


There is nothing dark about this, they are doing this in plain sight, there is very little people (who wants to use Google services*) can do about it. Even GDPR looks more and more toothless as days go by and nothing happens to obvious violators and it only covers European users of course.


Dark patterns aren't dark because they're "hidden". They're dark because they're misleading, or coercive.


Dark patterns are misleading, like highlighting the opt-in box for GDPR. No one is tricking users here, there are no options, they are told to suck it up.


Why should they not be able to control how they provide access to a product they develop and provide for free?


Because in the case of the EU it is against the regulations of the market they want to operate in.


On Android there's also the constant nagging to turn on GPS every time you open the app just to check the opening hours of some business. Super frustrating.


The wording is also super coercive. It makes it sound as if the app doesn't work without location enabled and the options are "cancel" and "okay". Most users probably think cancel means to cancel the action they were originally attempting, but in fact the app works perfectly fine without it. It is a dark pattern, and it was probably the red flag that finally flipped me from "okay maybe they make some mistakes" to "clearly the culture and ethics of the company have changed".


I had uninstalled Apple Maps [1] from my iPhone after iOS 11 upgrade because it was useless. Apple put it back with iOS 12 upgrade and I have kept it around so far. It is still useless here in India [1]. Often I sadly have no alternative to Google apps. I have tried at least a dozen apps (online/offline) and nothing even comes close to Google Maps.

Of course other features like News etc are not even shown on the app except in some countries while the price of the device remains the same (or more after taxes). I think I am being too harsh. They can do only so much with the resources they have :-)

[1] Apparently they use TomTom for map data in India (and elsewhere too?).

[2] https://www.apple.com/in/ios/feature-availability/#maps-dire...


How does OsmAnd fare in your region? Curiously, I find that it's often more detailed and accurate than Google Maps hereabouts.


Pretty bad in my experience. Also traffic scene is pathetic down here so that makes Google Maps even more indispensable. Add to fact that they did a good months long round of ads here on everything including Google Maps hoarding all around the city.


A maps app wanting to show the current location upon startup - isn't that to be expected?


No. Most times I use a maps app it doesn't need my location. Let it ask only when I explicitly ask for directions from my location, or when I click on the "center on my location" button.


No. 95% of the times I use it it's for checking opening hours and phone numbers of restaurants and stores in the other end of town. The other 5% of the time it's to check the distance from a hotel to nearby airport and attractions before I even decide to book the trip.

My current location has no relevance whatsoever in any of these use cases. My last viewed location in the app is usually much more relevant than my current physical location. And if its not then the center my location button is just one click away (plus another click for consent)

Very very rarely I do actually use turn-by-turn navigation but those few times shouldn't have destroy the experience for the more used scenarios. It would be so easy to prompt for location when this is activated and that's how it used to work before. This is very clearly a dark UX just to collect more data because I haven't met anyone who likes this "feature".


Because it's a map app.


Weird. I remember a time when maps were printed on paper and somehow worked as references without a satellite connection.

I also remember having used Google Maps to look up routes between two places while I was underground and GPS didn't work and my current location was indicated as being miles away from where I was.

It's almost like GPS is not actually required for anything other than indicating your current location.


Yeah, I've noticed this. They even taunt you, saying "hey, don't you want to add Home address?" - "Sure, click" - "So full tracking it is, then?"


Looks like Apple needs to run another 1984 ad during the Superbowl.



Super Bowl now streaming live on Sina Weibo, so it might be problematic.


Is the US football (not soccer) that popular in China or lots of Americans use Sina Weibo?


Neither. NFL just want to push it so much.

> The stakes are high for the league's bid to tap the enormous potential of China's 1.4 billion people. NFL is pushing tie-ups with more than a dozen platforms on regular television and online to help reach viewers, even at rush hour, Richard Young, managing director for NFL China, told Reuters in recent interviews.

https://www.businessinsider.com/r-super-bowl-goes-social-as-...


But do they stream the american ads ?


Just this time the Apple users will be the identical people with identical look on the chairs?


This has been the case for multiple years.

I'm NOT saying, "people shouldn't be surprised." By all means, be very outraged and surprised about it, maybe something will change. What I am saying is the fact that so many people are surprised on HN of all places means that very few people here have ever turned off Web & App Activity tracking, even just as a temporary experiment to see what would happen.

That makes me sad. Do it some time, you have no idea how many things on your phone will break. Google does not want you turning off that permission; there are a large number of other Google apps that exhibit behaviors just as outrageous as this.

Please go do some some first-hand research. You can turn off Web & App Activity temporarily. You can leave it off for even just a week, just to get a feel for what happens.

https://myaccount.google.com/activitycontrols


My personal favorite restriction: turn off Web & App Activity and then try to use a voice command to call/text another person. You can't use voice commands with contacts if you have the permission turned off.

I always forget that when I'm trying to do hands-free commands while driving. I have to pull over and manually click on the contact. I can't just use voice commands and put the phone on speaker.

It's outright vindictive, to the point of being legitimately dangerous. You can still add contacts, and their names still show up everywhere on the phone. You just don't get to hands-free dial any of them, because... somehow Google needs access to my search history to do that? It's one of the most straightforward examples of higher-ups in Google prioritizing user tracking over user safety.


Been annoyed about this for a long time. Google still knows about my home address as I have that label set in my Google Maps settings, it just won't let me use it unless I allow them to track all my search history. Wtf. Evil design pattern for sure.


I wonder what would happen if the world somehow managed to boycott Google, Facebook and Amazon as a protest against privacy issues and anti-competitive practices by these cos.

We already have the alternatives ready, network effects so strong smh


I am a privacy conscious person, I've been using the Here We Go app on iOS for directions:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/here-wego-city-navigation/id...

It has very cool feature - offline maps. By downloading your state/country's maps, you don't have to query a server for every little mapping request.

Between this app and saved podcasts, I'm able to switch off my mobile large chunks of the day.


How do they make money? Their site seems to point to selling some kind of information to companies:

https://www.here.com/en/industries/media/advertising


Seems like a pretty cool app, but what's their business model? App is free, there are no IAP. My default assumption is either they're selling some kind of personal location data, even if it's not live or they are running on funding and this app will be either gone or infested with ads within a few years.


Big fan of Here We Go and the UI as well.


[flagged]


> If you're privacy conscious, why do you have a smart phone at all? Get a standalone GPS

There are trade offs between privacy and security, it's not an all or nothing affair. Even a dumb phone can be tracked via cell tower pings... I think most people who say things like you did aren't effectively thread modeling.

For example, while I do own a smartphone, I turn it off and put it in a faraday bag during Defcon :)

>Even in airplane mode, your phone is tracking where you go with the accelerometer. I don't have time to look up the video right now, but this has been tested.

I'll acknowledge that's theoretically possible, but I'm selective about what apps I grant location privlidges to - I don't think most companies would want to risk fines etc by circumventing.

If I'm attending an especially sensitive meeting, I wouldn't bring any phone with me.


This is not GDPR compliant.


Huh, good point!



I set up a Shortcuts (formerly Workflow) to auto-map to my home address in Directions view, which is far more convenient anyway.

There isn’t much point in creating lists of important places within the app because Google can’t seem to figure out how to show these to you in fewer than 5 taps/screens. It’s crazy when the 3rd party solution can provide more direct access in an app than the app itself.


That's quite a clever solution.


I think I'm going to become an Apple user.


FWIW this is not new. This has been the case for the past couple of years at least.


You also can't use Google Home to control iot devices (in my case just a wifi plug) without having that setting enabled. I know most folks concerned about this tracking wouldn't have a Google Home anyway, but it was annoying to me ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


I won't give them my home address any way. If I want directions to "my house", I google an address on a block down the street.


they still know where you live. Your phone stops moving for 8 hours in the same spot every night. That's where you live. Unless you also leave your phone in a neighbor's letter box in which case you fooled 'em good.


Sure, they know but they're putting usability behind "accept us tracking everything" for anyone who has "opted out of tracking" several years ago. Basically they're turning off more and more usability so that they can get you to accept their tracking agreement.

They do this with btle as well, you have to turn on location services because they can't bother to randomize bluetooth tags (like apple) and want this setting on all the time.


odds are they still know where you live.


And everything else. Each google maps client likely has an ID that is used to link each one back to your gmail. Regardless of whether you've signed in at time of map query.


I'm pretty sure it's been like this for a while though. I distinctly remember going through that when I was moving recently.


This is not very least-privilege of them. I would measure a company's trust based on the error:

  |whatTheyAskFor - whatTheyNeed|/whatTheyNeed. 
This number should be << 1. Being error-prone doesn't make you look very good. Stop asking for more than you need, it shows that you don't really care about your customers. You look less competent when you require more permissions than you need to accomplish a task. Don't do that.


I stopped updating the 2 remaning Google applications on my phone - apart from the damned play services, let's not even go there -: maps and translate.

Maps is at 8.4.1[^1]. Before 9, it all worked reasonably, it wasn't giving me the creepy "Are you at ?" push notification, it all just worked. Yes, it's most probably still tracking me, but at least it not _that_ annoying as the new ones.

Translate is at 3.0.12[^2]. v4 was the "let's use AI". What happened in reality: offline translation, english to chinese, v3, 2014: people more or less understood after looking at it long enough. v4, 2016: blank stares at the text, then they gave us Baidu translate. Comparing the 3 things - v3, v4, baidu - v3 and baidu had some resemblance, , v4 was something completely unrelated.

I've seen software "evolving" for 25+ years now, and I'm pretty certain each and every piece of it has a pinnacle, when functionality meets (learnable) usability. After that it's first too many functions, than dumped down interface with not enough functions, then "AI" and non-functioning functionality. There's nearly never a OK, let's take a step back, which is so desperately needed.

As a result, I decided to stop updating some of my software, because it won't get any better for a very long while.

[^1]: https://www.apkmirror.com/apk/google-inc/maps/maps-8-4-1-5-r... [^2]: https://www.apkmirror.com/apk/google-inc/translate/translate...


What is your Google Maps alternative of choice for Android?

I wish OsmAnd (https://osmand.net/) would be more interactive on the map and complete regarding addresses. For example if I want to know which bus or subway to take to get from A to B in Hamburg I always have to resort to Maps.


I like Maps.me https://maps.me/ because it works offline and I can easily add markers to it, which are saved to a simple XML file on the phone (so it means even the app disappear, I can move them to another app). I also like that I can correct or add new places via my openstreetmap.com account.

It's based on OpenStreetMap and is reasonably accurate. The main disadvantage is that search is not that great but you get use to it once you know what it works and doesn't work with.




I realized all this when google made my android phone practically useless [ back in the day when play store was markets ], those days google maps worked like a charm on edge connection, only showed as much info needed and there was no such thing as google play services.

I had used that phone, and then google started pushing play services, play store into my phone.

the market app would not download any app without being transformed into the play store app which would require google play services.

These took space on my phone, and the phone did not have space to even save sms.

Installing, side loading apks and all is fine but you don't and can't tell your parents in a 3rd world country.

It became horrible one day when I wanted to just run android market on my phone and google forced to download play store, play services, and market transformed into play store and it took more than 100 MiB data. I was trying to show my parents as to how to download something from market, etc. whatsapp was becoming popular in my town. It was horrible because 100Mib of data costs money and screen flashed twice.

Then I had to give up. I had not got much money at that time.

Now, what I do.

I make an obscure email account [not gmail] on yahoo or ms or any tuta and make a google account using that email [ not gmail ] and you can keep changing the google' account email.

Google tracks your location, but it also correlates your location against your emails [ it never stopped reading emails ], don't use gmail at all.

You cannot avoid tracking of location, but you can avoid cross check of tracking info with your gmail content.

The gmail which is use actually is never synced to any device [ have deleted all the my activity permissions ] and I have turned up forwarding from gmail to a certain address which I open using firefox klar once a day.

Summary :

DO NOT USE THE SAME GOOGLE ACCOUNT FOR GMAIL AND ALL OTHER GOOGLE SERVICES.


From my experience, multiple companies have caught on and are doing this.

- NVidia: Block their telemetry, and their driver installer will block, even if you downloaded that massive driver package.

- Microsoft: Block their telemetry and some aspects of XBox One will break, including the Windows-10 streaming of the XBox. I found this to not be consistently true, so I am not sure what is going on behind the scene.

- Occulus Rift: You can't even block this telemetry. It's in the same app flow as the headset. If you block the telemetry to Facebook, the headset won't even work.

I predict that more and more companies will move critical services to the same DNS name or IP that their telemetry are using.


They've been doing that quite a while now. Funnily, they still let me use my workplace, (sometimes) but never my home address.

Just more incentive to move away from Google (which is sad, because the services are great; I'd even pay for them!)


Why would you want to let them know where you live or work in the first place?


For me, it was so that when I'm somewhere I don't know, I can type 'home' into the maps search box and get directions.

I turned off Google's activity tracking on iOS a couple of months ago, and only realised that Google Maps wasn't storing my home location when I used it for directions while stuck in traffic and it sent me to a nearby nursing home instead of my house.

I ended up turning activity tracking back on, because Apple maps still isn't fit for purpose where I live (Ireland). I often need directions down small rural roads, and four times out of five Apple Maps won't recognise the destination address, or will send me to a nearby but incorrect location.


Have you tried HERE?


mmm, you think they don't already know that?


I thought this was already the case for years. If you use android and have a google account setup, which is essential to downloading apps, it already tracks the user in the map app.


Another one is if you remove body sensor permission for Google play services. Once you do that, Maps will keep on showing an error notification every few minutes.


I've switched to the Vivaldi browser after all these privacy undermining "features" Google has been rolling out.

But I am happy Android now allows setting your own DNS - you are no longer restricted to Google DNS. I am waiting for X-Privacy to be made available for Android 9.

Apple products are not an option for me. It's Linux, Windows and Android in my world.


I made a similar remark here [0] about how disabling search history means Google Maps can't even save locally your search history on Google Maps.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17779757


I noticed this a few weeks back, when I disabled all tracking. The easy solution on Android was to have two shortcuts, one to home and one to work. That's ignoring the fact that I am still using Android and probably I am still being tracked some way.


Anyone would think that Google want to track you wouldn't they. Oh wait...


On Osmand, saving one's home address, or any place for that matter, is easily done by clicking on the star button. One can categorize places if they want to.

This is stored offline on the device.


The big question for Google: What revenue stream lies beyond ads? What else could you make money off to inspire again? Rather then just selling out your users on a daily basis.


Their cloud business doubles every year. Play & hardware are also considerable now: https://qz.com/1334369/alphabet-q2-2018-earnings-google-is-m...


Their cloud business is tiny compared to Amazon and Microsoft. They are a little late to that party. Play store is interesting and not much competition at all.


Google has gone rogue...


Sincere question about activity controls: What stops Google from collecting my web and app activity anyway even if I explicitly turn it off on my dashboard?


Looks like google has hit a gold mine with some algorithm to better sell ads or is under pressure from competitors (Facebook) to gather more data than they have currently.

Their lack of presence in social media will hurt them in the long term. In Facebook you upload pictures, you like stuff, you spend more time on someone's profile, you hover more on an ad even if you don't click all these while you are logged in. Google doesn't have that graph unless they link gmail with search. No one logs into Google search and give their identity, but we do pretty much the same in Facebook.


>you upload pictures, you like stuff, you spend more time on someone's profile >Google doesn't have that graph

Google has that information from the contacts of all Android phones, Google Photos, etc. Granted they don't probably have the information from iPhones, but then a lot of people don't have or use their FB account too.

> No one logs into Google search and give their identity

No one here. Most of the non-tech people (and some tech people) do log into Chrome and Google account, which means they are logged into Search too.


> Google has that information from the contacts of all Android phones

Not really. Manufacturers like Xiaomi (and I believe Samsung) use their own cloud to sync stuff.

> "Most of the non-tech people (and some tech people) do log into Chrome and Google account"

That is the recent change right? Like said, google seems desperate to get into that information graph.


And remember, logging into any Google service in Chrome now means you're logged into Chrome so more tracking!


Between WhatsApp / Facebook Messenger, Facebook Marketplace, and Amazon wishlists, who uses free email to describe what they want to buy or are interested in?


I've seen a lot of outrage at Google's practices over the previous 2 weeks. Has Google actually reversed course on any of their decisions?


But google are great. This is a feature of their online service. They need all your information in order to sell it so others can search and find it.

Or something.


If your argument starts with "sell your information"-like FUD, it's difficult to take anything you say serious.


Disable auto translation of reviews in Google maps is also another anti-feature that for no reason requires sign in.


I wonder how many people have died in car accidents while trying to type their home address because of this while driving.


I wonder how many people die texting and driving. Pro tip: don't type while driving.


Not even joking, I rear ended someone while trying to dismiss the "USE OUR APP" popup that comes when you navigate via maps.google.com instead of the phone app.


I have been using OsmAnd~ [0] lately and have been pretty happy with it as an alternative. Uses open street maps, works offline, pretty good and configurable app.

[0] https://f-droid.org/en/packages/net.osmand.plus/


The big issue preventing me from using something like OsmAnd is my need for real-time traffic. Generally, I can figure out where a place is with only the address since the N-S streets in my city are numbered and the first digits of an address on a cross-street corresponds to the numbered Avenues. Traffic, OTOH, can easily vary by 30 minutes on a 15 mile trip day to day even without any crashes along the route.

Is there an open, or at least more private, app that can give me accurate traffic data?


Maps.me, which also uses OpenStreetMap data, can show live traffic info. Not sure where they get the data from or whether it's accurate.


User error. Don't use your phone while driving.


I wasn't in any real sense. Until of course the view of my next turn was obstructed... Are Uber drivers "using their phone"?


If they're fiddling with the phone while moving, yes. That's an automatic loss of three stars from me. Missing an exit is not a tragedy; hitting someone might be.


Don't touch the touch screen while the engine is running.


If I had a paid click for every time youtube has asked me to switch to their shitty tab-less app..

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