Google Maps tracks you – even if you’ve never opened the app

A few Saturdays ago, I hopped into my car at 11.45 and put my seatbelt on. As I placed my phone in the coffee holder between the two front seats – a habit I really need to break, as it makes checking you’re phone at the traffic lights far too tempting – I noticed an alert pop up.

“Dance studio – 9 minutes drive”, it shared.

It was a helpful offering from Google Maps, even though I hadn’t asked for it.


My phone had done some work on my behalf, you see.

It matched up the day (Saturday), with the time (almost midday – when my kids’ dance classes end), and it recognised that historically, almost every Saturday this year, I’ve journeyed in the car to pick them up at around this point.

Depending on your view of technology and privacy, you’ll either view this small gesture as: a) immensely helpful, or b) a little bit terrifying.

I fall into camp b.

The amount of data that our phones capture, store and analyse about our daily habits and routines is staggering.

Google Maps, for instance, logs every single trip you take when your phone is on you – even if you have never once opened the app.

My dear old mum, who is pushing 70, has Google Maps on her phone and I can guarantee you, the only way it has ever been opened is by accident. Yet, her phone is logging a valuable cache of data about her daily commute to work, her grocery runs on a Tuesday after leaving the office, her trips to the local for a chicken shnitty on a Friday night.

That might seem innocuous enough. But what happens with that data? Who owns it? How can they monetise it? And what impact is it going to have on us?

Hear me out on this: our phones and digital maps log our daily commute. What if, one day, it starts sharing that data with our banks. And the data shows that we’re having more sick days, or that we’re working less hours. Could that result in the bank contacting us saying: We’re noticing a change in your employment habits, we’re going to put your credit card on hold in the interim until you can prove you’re still employed.

I can’t shake the feeling that we’re marching heard-first towards a society where everything, everyone and every little action is going to be highly monitored, and worse, policed.

Anyone remember the movie Minority Report? Yikes…

Thankfully, if this idea bothers you, there is something you can do about it. If not – maybe leave your phone at home every now and then?