Google Photos can add location info to photos even if you have it turned off


google photos estimated

One of Google’s most powerful (and creepy) features is Location History. Google pretty much always knows where you are, and they use this information to make your life easier (and sell ads). For example, the Google Photos app can use your location to place photos on a map. A lot of people turn off location data for photos, but apparently that doesn’t stop Google from tracking it.

At least one user of Google Photos has noticed that some of his old photos were amended with location info. The problem is he never enabled the Save Location option in the camera app. Google decided that it was necessary to add that information despite the user’s choice. Apparently, Google has been doing this since October 2015, but no one noticed. They released the following statement to Android Police:

For photos that do not have location information from your phone/camera, we now might estimate a location for that photo using information such as your Google Location History.

The good news about estimated location is it’s not as specific as the Save Location feature. The location will be listed as the city or general area, not an exact GPS pinpoint on a map. The bad news is there’s no easy way to prevent Google from adding estimated locations. You would have to disable Location History altogether, which may interfere with other services.

We’re not really sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, it’s awesome that Google can retroactively add useful information to your photos. But on the other hand, users have chosen not to enable Save Location data for a reason. Google should respect that. What do you think about this?

Joe Fedewa
Ever since I flipped open my first phone I've been obsessed with the devices. I've dabbled in other platforms, but Android is where I feel most at home.

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