With Google Maps 'Timeline', Location History Is Now Stored Locally On Users' Device

Google Maps

Google is known for storing users' location data by default.

And to make the data accessible to users, it puts everything into what it calls the 'Your Timeline' feature, which shows where users have been, including the specific locations they have visited. This data is grouped into Trips, Places, Cities, and World (countries).

Google also generates Insights, like how far users have traveled on a particular mode of transport.

Traditionally, this information is stored in the clouds, meaning that users can access them wherever they are, as long as they're logged in to their Google Account.

This is changing.

With the update, Google no longer puts this information in its servers and instead, stores it locally on users' devices.

In a blog post, Google said that:

"People turn to Google Maps to make their lives easier — from seeing how crowded a bus will be or when a restaurant is busy to remembering a beach they visited years ago on vacation. These helpful features are possible because of location data. And with Google, managing location data is simple thanks to tools like auto-delete and Incognito mode. Today, we’re introducing new updates to give you even more control over this important, personal information."

Google Maps

It all began back in December 2023, when Google announced that Maps Location History would soon be stored on users' phone instead of the cloud.

In the past, Your Timeline has been the subject to broad geofence warrants, where law enforcements were able to request all information about suspects, or know whatever devices that happened to be near a particular incident.

By putting everything on users' phone, Google no longer has the ability to respond to those requests.

So here, the change is a huge privacy boost.

As part of this change, Location History is renamed to 'Timeline.'

The information within Timeline is imported from the Your Timeline feature.

"The Timeline feature in Maps helps you remember places you’ve been and is powered by a setting called Location History. If you’re among the subset of users who have chosen to turn Location History on (it’s off by default), soon your Timeline will be saved right on your device — giving you even more control over your data. Just like before, you can delete all or part of your information at any time or disable the setting entirely," said Google.

And because things are stored locally, Google is also phasing out Your Timeline feature on the web, which has not seen any design change or improvements in years.

Users are still given an option to back up their data to the cloud, if they fear about losing their phones.

"We’ll automatically encrypt your backed-up data so no one can read it, including Google," said Google

Or, users can turn on auto-delete, which makes Maps store location history for three months, before automatically rewrite older data with newer ones.

Previously this option was set to 18 months.

And for those who don't care much about this, and prefer to store everything, users can always choose the extend the period, or just turn off the auto-delete controls altogether.

Published: 
06/06/2024