Google Maps to Store Location Data Locally

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Google Maps’ trip data is moving into your phone storage, leaving the cloud behind.

  • Users can opt to save the data in the cloud, but it’s no longer the default.
  • Google is giving users more control over their data in anticipation of more laws.

Google Maps’ trip data will be stored on users’ devices rather than the cloud, in anticipation of future legislation stemming from government scrutiny of data collection.

The Maps application has a Timeline feature that, when enabled, periodically records each linked device’s precise location, documenting where you’ve been. This Google Maps trip data was saved in the cloud.

Last December, the tech giant announced that in a future Timeline update. The data would be stored on a user’s device by default rather than in the cloud. You could still opt for cloud storage, though. And now, the Google Maps update is here in 2024. In an email sent to users, the company disclosed that users have until December 1st to save all their Google Maps trip data on their devices before it starts deleting the old data.

More Power to the People

In this day and age, users can no longer entrust tech companies with their data willy-nilly because it is now worth its weight in gold. They often monetize user data, with the likes of Meta and Google generating significant revenue through targeted ads. According to eMarketer, Meta is projected to bring in $62.70 billion in US ad revenues in 2024. So, this update gives a user further control over their own data.

But there’s more to it.

In the U.S., there’s something called a ‘geofence warrant,’ which allows law enforcement to request a tech company’s location data of all devices that have been within the vicinity of a crime scene. Now that the Timeline activity data is not in Google’s possession, nobody can request it, and people will not be suspected just for being there.

And this isn’t the first time that Google Maps trip data has been modified to protect user privacy and security. In fact, around July 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which protected abortion rights, Google began automatically deleting certain sensitive locations from users’ Timelines, including abortion clinics, domestic violence shelters, weight loss clinics, and other potentially sensitive locations.

For the Love of Legislation

Over the last couple of years, but especially after AI technologies took the world by storm, governments have been scrutinizing how tech companies collect and employ user data, including Google Maps’ trip information.

And they’re not happy with what they’ve observed, to say the least. Specifically, they are unsatisfied with how these enterprises are handling everything. Regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US force strict requirements on how companies collect, store, and manage personal data. These laws emphasize user consent, data minimization, and the right to access and delete personal information​.

It’s not difficult to read the writing on the wall either. More legislation is coming Big Tech’s way. So, these decisions also prepare the company to comply with future mandates as well.

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