What you Need to Know About your Location History Timeline

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 27 Aug 2015

Google has recorded location data tracking every step you’ve made with your Android phone for quite some time. While you were always able to see all the information and even delete it, all your archived whereabouts used to be buried in your account on the web.

Google updated the Maps Android app to not only put location data front and center but also to give you a bunch of interesting new features. While I was a little creeped out at first, I found there were some genuinely neat useful capabilities.

Here’s what you need to know about the feature, including how you may want to make use of some of this data, delete some of it, or completely wipe all of it away for good.

Where It’s At

You’ll find a new section in the slide-out menu of Maps called Your Timeline. Select it, and you’ll see a lineup of your movements for the current day. A line traces your whereabouts, and how it thinks you got there, such as via car, transit, walking, or biking.

Check out the new timeline feature in the slide-out menu of Maps.

The vertical menu bar is where you can take more control. Swipe to the right to go back one day, or touch the calendar to select a specific date.

You can get a map timeline of everywhere you went with your Android phone.

You’ll probably find some boxes that ask you to confirm where you matched the location to a place in its database. You can either select “Yes” or edit the place if it is guessed wrong, or you want to be more specific. The place details bring you to the places in Maps.

If you use photos, you’ll notice a couple of pictures you took from that location will appear underneath the description. But doesn’t include the entire batch. So this seems like one of those features that could either expand or go away over time.

Why your Timeline may be Useful

Google’s products often juggle and straddle the line between awesome and creepy. Your activity timeline is a perfect example. But there are a few things you may like about it, so hold on for a moment before you decide to wipe it all away.

Your timeline tracks where you’ve visited and included details about those places in Maps.

If nothing else, your timeline is neat for a look back at past travels or busy days around town. Since I travel a lot, I’ve been able to check my past exploits by seeing where I visited on a specific day. It’s helped me remember the name of a restaurant or store my wife and I visited. The timeline also settled a few friendly arguments with family members about who went where on a specific day.

Make it all go away

It’s perfectly reasonable if you decide this is just too much data for you to share publicly. Fortunately, one of the upsides of building the timeline into maps is that it’s very easy for you to delete any or all of it. Previously, you had to follow a circuitous process to delete all your location history on the web.

When you’re looking at a specific day’s events, just touch the vertical, three-dot button in the upper right; select Delete Day. If you want to wipe the slate clean, from the same menu, select Manage location settings then choose to Delete all Location History. You’ll get a dire warning about how this will delete all the location history from your account, which may impact how other apps that rely on this data.

Delete your history from one day or all time inside Maps.

Since it tends to look ahead, serving you travel details, sports scores, and other information about your life, I don’t foresee any major disruption.

Unfortunately, you don’t have any further ability to pick or choose what you want to get rid of. You can’t delete one month, a trip, or a week, and keep another. It’s either one day at a time or sending them all to the digital trash.

If this much data sharing isn’t for you, you’re able to turn off Map’s auto-tracking altogether. Go to Manage location settings and select location settings. This will kick you over to Play Services, which is the master controller for the data gathered, and remember, you have to go there to stop sending images to photos). From there you can turn off data collection for any of your Android devices where location history is flipped on.

My recommendation is to live with the activity data collection for a while to find out if you like it. Google’s privacy policy spells out that the data is only for you, but even that may not be enough reassurance. Should you decide to turn off the location collection, there’s still plenty of cool stuff in Maps to explore.