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Google Timeline: Security, Convenience and Privacy

Posted: 25-Nov-2015 13:00:00
Author: Emily Forrest

google-your-timeline_

Most of us are aware that Google is able to track certain user data such as search history and browsing habits, but how many are aware that Google also tracks the user's geographical location.

For many this will be a matter of convenience which allows Google to provide us with updates about things like traffic and weather, and Google’s ‘Your Timeline’ is the latest application of such functionality.

Google Timeline tracks where users have been on any given day, month or year, as well as how you got to and from those locations, and displays this information on a map which enables the user to visually retrace their movement. It also allows you to look back over archived data and will record and display your most visited places. For some however, it will cross a line which should not be crossed in relation to privacy.


Such information has been used in the US and the UK to track the movements of suspected criminals over time, and the useful applications of that data for those in law enforcement are clear.

Your Timeline is the latest stepping stone in the debate around security, convenience and privacy. Greater access to information for corporations such as Google allows them to improve their products and services in a way which can improve our lives (e.g. calculating more efficient routes to work every day).

Easier access to the same data by law enforcement means that they can more easily determine a suspect's location when an offence was committed, but also if an alibi can be verified thereby exculpating the suspect. However both of these scenarios require individuals to relinquish some level of privacy which is of course something many consider to be a fundamental right.

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