How Google uses location information
- Why does Google use location information?
- How does Google know my location?
- How is location saved in my Google Account?
- How is location used to show ads?
Why does Google use location information?
Providing useful, meaningful experiences is at the core of what Google does, and location information plays an important role in doing just that. From driving directions, to making sure your search results include things near you, to showing you when a restaurant is typically busy, location can make your experiences across Google more relevant and helpful. Location information also helps with some core product functionality, like providing a website in the right language or helping to keep Google’s services secure.
How does Google know my location?
Depending on the products you’re using and settings you choose, you may provide Google with different types of location information that are critical to making some services work and making others more useful for you. Location can come from real-time signals, like your IP address or device location, and also your past activity on Google sites and services to tailor experiences for your context. Below are the primary ways we may get information about your location.
From your device’s IP address
Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are part of the fabric of the internet, and are assigned to a device whenever that device connects online. When a website needs to send something to your computer (for instance, your Google search results), it needs your IP address to send it to the right computer. IP addresses are roughly based on geography, and as such may be used to approximate the general location of a device. Like many other Internet services, Google can use this information about your location to provide some basic services (even if precise location is not being collected from your device). As an example, this could help us understand the country you are using our services from and–if there’s a sign-in from an unexpected place–allow us to detect unusual account activity.
From your activity
As you use our services, we may infer that you’re interested in a place even if your device isn’t telling us exactly where you are. For example, if you search for “Cafes in Paris”, we may assume that you would like to see places near Paris and show you results of cafes there. Depending on your settings, this type of information may be stored with your account and used as one signal to decide whether you might still be in Paris when you do more searches at a later time.
From your saved places
You might also choose to tell us about places that are important to you, such as your home or your work. This could help you do things like pull up directions faster by automatically pulling up your home and work addresses. This information can also be used to influence the results that we provide to you. Learn more
From your devices
You can allow Google and other apps to provide you with useful features based on where your device is located. For example, if you’re running late to meet your friends, you’ll probably want to use a navigation app to know the quickest way to get to your destination. To get turn-by-turn directions, you may need to turn on your device’s location and give the app the permission to access it.
On your Android device, if you choose to turn on your device location, you can use features like navigation, giving an app access to your current location, or find your phone. You can also choose which apps have permission to use your device’s location with simple controls that let you turn the permission on or off for individual apps. When you grant apps (including Google apps) the permission to use your device’s location, the data becomes available to those specific apps. On Android, you can see when an app is requesting to use your phone’s GPS-based location when the top of your screen shows Location. Learn more
Google Location Services
On most Android devices, Google, as the network location provider, provides a location service called Google Location Services (GLS), known in Android 9 as Google Location Accuracy. This service aims to provide a more accurate device location and generally improve location accuracy. Most mobile phones are equipped with GPS, which uses signals from satellites to determine a device’s location – however, with Google Location Services, additional information from nearby Wi-Fi, mobile networks, and device sensors can be collected to determine your device’s location. It does this by periodically collecting location data from your device and using it in an anonymous way to improve location accuracy.
You can disable Google Location Services at any time in your device’s location settings. Your device’s location will continue to work even if GLS is turned off, but the device will rely only on GPS to estimate device location for apps with the necessary permission. Google Location Services is distinct from your device’s location setting. Learn more
The settings and permissions on Android control whether your device sensors (like GPS) or network-based location (like GLS) are used to determine your location and which apps have access to that location. They do not impact the use of IP address, your activity or saved places, or other contextual signals that applications might use to understand your location.
How is location saved in my Google Account?
Depending on the Google products and services that you use and your settings, Google may be saving location information to your Google Account. Two of the most common places where this information may be saved is Location History and Web & App Activity.
Google Location History
If you opt in to Location History and your device is reporting location, the precise location of your signed-in devices will be collected and stored, even when you’re not actively using a Google product or service. This helps create your Timeline where Location History data is stored, and may be used to power future recommendations on Google. You can review, edit, and delete what’s saved in your Timeline at any time.
Turning on Location History provides more personalized experiences across Google—restaurants suggested in Google Maps based on dining spots you’ve visited, real-time information about the best time to leave for home or work in order to beat the traffic, and albums in Google Photos automatically created from places you’ve visited.
To determine if you’ve turned on Location History, visit your Activity controls. You may be asked to sign in, and from there, you can view whether this control is on. While you may pause the collection of new Location History data, your past Location History data will continue to be stored until you delete it. Learn more
If you delete your Location History data, you may still have other location data saved elsewhere—such as in Web & App Activity.
Web & App Activity
If Web & App Activity is enabled, your searches and activity from a number of other Google services are saved to your Google Account. The activity saved to Web & App Activity may also include location information. As an example, if you type in “weather” in Search and get weather results based on where you are, this activity, including the location used to provide this result, is saved to your Web & App Activity. The location used and stored with your Web & App Activity can come from signals like the device’s IP address, your past activity, or from your device, if you’ve chosen to turn on your device’s location settings.
Turning on your Web & App Activity setting helps us show you more useful search results, more relevant ads, and more tailored suggestions–like when you see your search automatically suggested based on past searches. You can review and delete what’s in your Web & App Activity, or pause it for your Google Account. Pausing Web & App Activity will stop saving your future searches and activity from other Google services. Even if you delete your Web & App Activity data, you may still have location data saved elsewhere—such as in Location History.
How is location used to show ads?
Ads can be served based on your general location. This can include location derived from the device’s IP address. Depending on your ads personalization settings, you may also see ads based on your activity in your Google Account. This includes activity stored in your Web & App Activity, which can be used for more useful ads. Another example is if you have enabled Location History and regularly frequent ski resorts, you might later see an ad for ski equipment when watching a video on YouTube. Google also uses Location History in an anonymized and aggregated manner, for users who have chosen to opt-in to it, to help advertisers measure how often an online ad campaign helps drive traffic to physical stores or properties. We do not share Location History or any other identifying information with advertisers.
You have control over the data stored in your Google Account, and can turn off personalized ads at any time. When ads personalization is off, Google does not use the data stored in your Google Account to serve you more relevant ads.