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    Google Maps Timeline Data to be Stored Locally on Your Device for Enhanced Privacy

    Google has revealed a significant shift in data handling for its Maps Timeline feature, effective from December 1, 2024. This change will relocate Timeline data storage from Google’s servers to users’ local devices, marking a notable move towards augmented privacy.

    Originally unveiled in December 2023, this change accompanies an update to the auto-delete control for Location History. The default retention period will be reduced to three months, a substantial decrease from the prior 18-month setting.

    Google Maps Timeline, a feature designed to chronicle users’ travel history, including routes, trips, and visited locations, operates under the condition that Location History and Web & App Activity settings are enabled.

    However, this latest adjustment means that Timeline data will now reside exclusively on the user’s device, eliminating the option to access it via the web. Google detailed this in a support document, stating, “Since the data displayed on your Timeline is directly sourced from your device, Timeline will no longer be available on Maps on your computer once your data transitions to your phone.”

    These updates are being incrementally rolled out to all users of the Google Maps application. Additionally, users are encouraged to activate backups, ensuring that an encrypted copy of the Timeline data is stored on Google’s servers to aid in seamless transfers when switching devices.

    This policy alteration is part of Google’s broader response to scrutiny over its data practices. Allegations had surfaced suggesting that Google misled consumers and continued tracking their movements despite the deactivation of Location History through account settings, leveraging the less transparent Web & App Activity setting.

    An investigation by the Associated Press in 2018 disclosed that “Disabling ‘Location History’ while keeping ‘Web & App Activity’ enabled only prevents Google from adding your movements to the ‘timeline,’ its visual representation of your daily travels. It does not halt Google’s collection of other location markers.”

    In response to these concerns, Google has reached settlements with multiple U.S. states over these practices. In April 2024, the company agreed to pay $62 million to various non-profits, with a parallel lawsuit in Texas still pending.

    This evolution in data management underscores Google’s efforts to enhance user privacy while navigating complex legal landscapes and responding to increasing demands for transparency and user control over personal data.

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