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Google Will Drop Access To Users' Location Histories, Blocking Police

Google is changing its Maps tool so that the company no longer has access to users' location histories, cutting off its ability to respond to law enforcement warrants that ask for data on everyone who was in the vicinity of a crime, Bloomberg reports. Google is changing its Location History feature on Google Maps, according to a blog post. The feature, which Google says is off by default, helps users remember where they’ve been. The company said that for users who have it enabled, location data will soon be saved directly on users’ devices, blocking Google from being able to see it, and, by extension, blocking law enforcement from being able to demand that information from Google.

“Your location information is personal,” said Google's Marlo McGriff We’re committed to keeping it safe, private and in your control.” The change comes three months after a Bloomberg Businessweek investigation that found police across the U.S. were increasingly using warrants to obtain location and search data from Google, even for nonviolent cases, and even for people who had nothing to do with the crime. “It’s well past time,” said Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that defends digital civil liberties. “We’ve been calling on Google to make these changes for years, and I think it’s fantastic for Google users, because it means that they can take advantage of features like location history without having to fear that the police will get access to all of that data.” Lynch said that while Google deserves credit for the move, it’s long been the only tech company that that the EFF and other civil-liberties groups have seen responding to geofence warrants.


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