Google Maps Just Made it Easier to Hide Your Life

A photo of the new Device toggles on Android

Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

If you give me access to your location, I am the person who will check on you constantly and bring it up the next time I see you. “So,” I’ll start casually, “what were you doing in the city last week?” Then you’ll ask me how I knew you were down there. I’ll remind you that you gave me access one summer long ago and never revoked it.

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If you have someone like me around and you use Google Maps, there’s good news: you’ll have an easier time shielding yourself not only from a well-meaning loved one’s periodic check-ins as soon as the latest update hits your phone. The privacy-minded feature keeps Google from seeing where you’re going without tapping among a million screens to find the toggle.

Now, when you tap on your “blue dot” on the map—indicating your location within Google Maps—you’ll see a new batch of Location History options at the bottom of the screen. You can toggle on kill switches for your device location and location history from here. It’s helpful if, in Google’s example, you’re planning a surprise party for someone and want them to avoid catching on. But as The Verge aptly points out, this could also be a lifesaver for folks in desperate situations where they need incognito. Google says the ability to delete place-related activities from Maps will begin rolling out to Android and iOS in the coming weeks.

Google also detailed a few other Maps features coming in the update pipeline. If you’re one of the people who use Location History—I do, for instance, remember places I’ve been long-term—data will be saved directly to your device rather than synced up into the cloud. Google says the data is automatically encrypted, and even if you upload it to the cloud, no one can read it, “including Google.” However, this feature isn’t available yet, so don’t get too excited. It’s just a preview of what Google hopes to push out in 2024.

Google Maps has recently undergone a metamorphism. The company has been rolling out significant updates with notable changes over the past few months, including some AI-enhanced additions that have been met with some ire. It also increased the social network aspect of the maps app by enabling things like emojis for Google Maps lists you share with friends.