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Google Maps year in review feature shrugs off Location History woes

After the controversy that surrounded its location habits in 2019, the Google Maps team is making a bold start to 2020 by sending people a map showing them everywhere they went last year.

The new 2019 Timeline Update feature is a year-in-review feature offers a “Your visits in 2019” tool, which plots the countries, cities and places you’ve visited, including which ones you haven’t been in from the year before.

Google is also serving up a “your activity” tool that shows up your walking and vehicle commutes and highlights from any trips you may have taken. If you click one of those highlights, you’ll see a separate timeline for that trip.

The company is walking on thin ice by sending out these reports to users, via their inboxes, given the controversy surrounding the storing of location histories during 2019.

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When alerting users, the company said: “You’re receiving this email because you turned on Location History, a Google Account–level setting that saves where you go in your private Timeline.”

The company is also alerting users that they can follow a link to amend their Location History settings if they find this a little too creepy.

This move comes following controversy over the data Google collects on users’ locations even when they turn off the Location History setting on their device.

An Associated Press report found services like Google Maps was still noting the user’s every move. The only difference turning off the Location History setting made was to ensure the data was no longer added to the company’s consumer-facing Timeline feature.

In a blog post on May 1 2019, the company wrote: “Whether you’re looking for the latest news or the quickest driving route, we aim to make our products helpful for everyone. And when you turn on settings like Location History or Web & App Activity, the data can make Google products more useful for you—like recommending a restaurant that you might enjoy, or helping you pick up where you left off on a previous search. We work to keep your data private and secure, and we’ve heard your feedback that we need to provide simpler ways for you to manage or delete it.”

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