Google Now Lets You Know Where You've Been

Data Privacy
Customer Experience
Google Maps' latest feature shows your location history in a timeline but does it benefit users?

Make way for more data: Google is rolling out a new feature for Android and desktop users that shows them a timeline of places they've visited. It remains to be seen though, how this data will benefit consumers.Your Timeline is "a useful way to remember and view the places you've been on a given day, month or year," writes Product Manager Gerard Sanz in a blog post. "Your Timeline allows you to visualize your real-world routines, easily see the trips you've taken and get a glimpse of the places where you spend your time."

In other words, you can see where Google has tracked you with its Location History setting. Sanz adds that this data is privately shown to each person and you can delete it at any time, either by the day or en masse. You can also turn off the Location History setting.

Access to user data is increasingly the norm. Facebook users can request a record of their activities including things like past searches, check-ins, and ad topics that are targeted at them. Apple's iOS lets users access a record of their location history via a setting on their phone.

Consumers can potentially use this aggregated data for insights into their behavior and interests. For instance, people who are trying to lose weight may not realize they have unhealthy eating habits or need more exercise until they see a record of where they've been over the past few months.

While consumers may have a better idea of the data that's being collected about them, not much changes in regards to brands monetizing the data. Giving consumers access to their location history and other user data is a nice gesture, but does it justify collecting the data in the first place? The answer is unclear.

Receiving access to data that's collected about you is a "good thing" says Paul Greenberg, president and founder of consulting firm The 56 Group. "People want control over what they do and so being able to see at least some of the data that Google and Facebook have about you is good," Greenberg says. "But Google and Facebook are businesses and the cost of using these services is still your data."