At LockerGnome.net, DJ Scooby Doo asks: “How does Google know where you live?”
Do you find it a little strange that your phone knows exactly where you live despite never actually telling it? Android 4.1 Jelly Bean introduced the world to Google Now, a service that uses your location to provide relevant and helpful information. After a few days, the service seems to “learn” where you live and base commute times and other helpful tidbits off this data.
I’m no fan of any corporation knowing more about me than I know about myself. That said, Google provides some of the most important and useful services I use daily. It’s a confusing situation to say the least.
On one hand, I value my privacy and not having every strange search I’ve done sitting on a hard drive just waiting for a clever hacker to out it to the world would be a good thing. On the other, I don’t know if working from home would be possible for me if not for Google AdSense and productivity tools like Google Drive.
So, what does Google actually know about you?
If you have an Android device running 4.1 Jelly Bean or later, then you should know that having Google Now active on your phone gives Google all the data it needs to determine where you live whether you submit your address through the Google Play Store or not. Where you spend most of your time, log in to Google on your PC, and do the majority of your surfing is home. You might work somewhere 8-10 hours per day, and have an active night life, but there is a place your phone goes to charge and you go to sleep at the end of the day. After a few days’ worth of data, Google has a pretty good idea where home is.
It also figures out where you work based on this, too. I work from home, so Google Now assumes that I work at my favorite coffee shop. It was a funny discovery at first, but not so much when I realized that Google knows more about my habits than I realized myself.
It comes down to what is more important to you: privacy or convenience?
If you want to turn this tracking off, you can through the privacy settings menu on your Android device. Keep in mind, though, that this will break much of the functionality that puts users at an advantage. Again, it’s a complicated situation. You either sacrifice functionality for privacy or vice versa.
Google depends on your need for convenience to make money. Think about it: Google is the world’s largest advertising agency. It takes money to serve directed ads to users. Its value to advertisers is improved by data Google has collected about its users. This is why Google+, Gmail, Google Drive, and all the other services that Google provides are made available for free to non-commercial users. Advertising to workers at a company isn’t profitable, so Google charges companies to use its services. For individuals, the data it collects on users is exactly what advertisers are hoping will make each impression worth more than any mass media could ever want.
What do you think? Is Google Now’s tracking of your location worth the loss of privacy? Is this a feature that makes Android a better option than the competition?