Google will update Maps to prevent authorities from accessing location history data


Google will update Maps to prevent authorities from accessing location history data -Gudstory

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Google will soon store Maps users’ location history locally on their devices instead of in the cloud, a major change that will make it more difficult for law enforcement to access the data.

The controversial “geofence warrant” allows law enforcement to collect data from tech companies on mobile phones that have passed through a certain area during a specific time period. For example, the FBI has used warrants to gather information about Black Lives Matters protests as part of an investigation into an attempted arson in Seattle.

Google has faced pressure for years to change the way it stores users’ location history, with privacy concerns and the possibility of geofence warrants to turn anyone at an alleged crime scene into a potential suspect. With this update to Maps, which is expected to be released next year, the tech giant finally seems to be doing something about it.

“Google has taken this step to explicitly end such dragnet location searches,” forbes The report, citing a Google employee “who was not authorized to speak publicly.”

“We’re always working on ways to give people more control over their data,” Marlo McGriff, Google Maps product director, said in an emailed statement. the verge, Google announced the changes in a blog post this week.

This change applies to the Timeline feature in Maps, which remembers places users have previously been. Location History is turned off by default, but for users who choose to turn it on, Google usually stores that information in the cloud. This is why it has become possible for law enforcement to request data through geofence warrants. Now that location history will be stored across users’ devices, Google won’t have that aggregate data to hand over to the police or FBI.

Google says users will receive a notification when the update is applied to their account. The change will happen gradually over the next year on both Android and iOS versions of the Google Maps app. The company is also changing its auto-delete settings, which were previously set to 18 months by default. With this update, auto-delete will be set to three months by default. Anyone who wants to keep their location data when they get a new phone, as it will be saved locally, can back it up to the cloud and Google will automatically encrypt it.

Although any tech company may be required to comply with a geofence warrant, forbes Most of these warrants are reported to target Google. Democrats last year sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai asking the company to “stop unnecessarily collecting and retaining customer location data,” specifically referencing the 11,554 geofence warrants Google obtained in 2020. was given. At the time, they were concerned that the warrants could be used to target people visiting abortion clinics amid legal action over the procedure.


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