One buried Google Maps setting you need to change now

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Remember the old GPS units we used to get around back in the day? Before that, maybe you printed directions from MapQuest or another site. And before that, we relied on actual maps that no one knew how to fold quickly.

Today, you open up your phone and click an app. It’s easy, sure, but you might not think much about how much information you’re giving away with every trip and every search.

Speaking of searches, it’s high time you cleared out your browser search history. If you don’t do this regularly, start now. Tap or click for steps in all the major browsers.

Before you use Google Maps to get somewhere, there’s one simple change you can make to take back at least a piece of your privacy.

See everywhere you’ve gone

Did you know Google Maps works even if you don’t have a Google account associated with it? You won’t get all the features, though. Signing in allows you to save locations, like your home and work, and remember your preferred routes.

Like any navigation app, Google Maps uses the GPS location on your phone to determine where in the world you are. Every time you navigate somewhere, your location is stored in your profile.

That might not seem so bad. After all, your navigation app needs to know where you are. But all that info is seldom deleted from your account. You can check where you were on this day five years ago, for instance.

It is eye-opened to check this list. Maybe it'll feel like a fun walk down memory lane. Or perhaps it will creep you out.

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Here’s how to see your history:

  • When signed in, click on your profile picture to open your Google Account or go to your Google Account page.
  • On the left, click on Data & Personalization.
  • Under "Activity Controls," click on Location History.
  • At the bottom, click Manage activity

You will see a map that includes details like your saved home and work locations and all the recorded trips you’ve made over the years. You can use the Timeline box in the top left corner to search by year or down to a specific day.

Try going back a few years. If there are trips recorded, you’ll see a blue bar you can click. Select it to get highlights, like visits you made, places you traveled to, and the exact route you took. You’ll even see how long it took you to get there.

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You can turn this tracking off

After you’re done exploring, you can choose to stop Google from keeping track of your movement in this way.

  • Open your Google Account page.
  • On the left, click on Data & Personalization.
  • Under "Activity Controls," click on Location History.
  • You can toggle this off. Note: Google saves where you go even when you aren’t using a specific Google service.

Switching this off stops tracking in the future, but it will retain a copy of your history.

To completely delete your location history data, click on the Auto-delete option. You can choose to auto-delete the data older than three months, older than 18 months or older than 36 months. You can still manually delete anything before that.

If you turn this setting off, Google warns you may not see recommendations based on your history or tips to, say, make your commute easier. Your location may also still be saved when you use other Google services, like Google Photos.

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