Google Maps Timeline: what it is and how to use it

A function tightly integrated with Android mobile devices that turns out to be a “cross and delight” for many users is the Timeline Google Maps. First introduced in summer 2015, the Google Timeline allows you to keep track of visited places. It records and stores information about the user’s geographic locations, allowing you to view the travel history in a certain period of time.

The Google Maps Timeline offers users the ability to keep a record of where they’ve been over time: it’s called location history. It can be useful for remembering the places visited, tracing travel routes or simply for having a personal reminder of one’s movements.

The search functionality integrated into the Timeline allows users to find places visited in the past. You can also access statistics about your movements: the number of kilometers travelledthe time spent in various places and the modes of transport used over time.

The mechanism of sharing integrated allows users to share their journeys with friends or family: in this way you can put a common factor travel itinerary or show the places you have visited to another person.

How Google Maps Timeline works

From a technical point of view, the Google Maps Timeline works in a similar way to other tools location tracking. To generate the Timeline, the app Google Mapsinstalled on the mobile device, uses GPS positioning and geolocation services in general to determine where the user is in real time.

I Collected data they are then stored, processed and aggregated on Google’s servers. Special algorithms and analysis techniques make it possible to automatically identify the places visited, the stages of each route and extract other interesting information. At this point, the information thus generated populates the Timeline map accessible from desktop or mobile device.

The advice is to open the travel map from the desktop, after logging in with the same account Google configured on the Android mobile device you usually use.

Since 2020, the Timeline is integrated with Google Photos and shows the captured images with the camera at various locations. Each shift is thus associated with the photos taken during the corresponding trip. Tapping on the three dots in the top right corner of the Google Maps app, then tapping on Settings and privacyyou can decide whether to show the images from Google Photos in the navigation screen (see below).

Google Maps Timeline: Integration with Google Photos

Access the commute map on desktop and mobile devices

In the wider area, Google places red dots at each place visited over time. In the lower area of ​​the screen, from left to right, there are references to places you visit most often based on the chronological content, the list of trips made for work and for leisure, the indication of the place of work and residence.

fromapp Google Maps installed on your mobile device, you can access very similar information by tapping the circle at the top right and then choosing Movements dal menu.

Location history essential for the functioning of the Timeline

In a separate panel in the desktop view, Timeline indicates whether location history is turned on or off. The effective use of location history is essential for Google to collect movement data and show it on the interactive map.

In the desktop version of the Timeline, just click the button Manage Location History. Alternatively, you can access the section Data and privacy of the Google user account then click on the item Location history in the box History settings.

Google Maps Timeline: Location history

The drop-down menu that appears on the page subsequently displayed allows you to turn on location history or turn it off. If you want to prevent Google from collecting and storing information about your location, you can choose Deactivate. By opting for Deactivate and delete the activityGoogle not only disables any user location collection activity but also deletes the history of information stored in the past.

Turn Google Maps location history on or off

Bluntly said, it’s not like disabling location history has any immediate benefits in terms of privacy. Google has a very precise picture, which it also and above all uses for advertising and marketing purposes, on each user. And above all on those who use his services. A 2018 verification conducted by researchers at Princeton University caused a sensation: Android collects data even when location history is turned off. But so be it.

The results of a study were also published shortly containing indications on the data collected by Google on Android devices. More recently, Android devices have been shown to send 20 times more data to Google than iOS to Apple.

The Google Maps Timeline and privacy

There is one aspect that no one talks about, perhaps because it is a bit of “uncomfortable” information. We want to emphasize the importance of protect devices that are used appropriately.

In fact, suppose you have performed theaccess, with your Google account, on a device that is physically located in your home or office (think a desktop PC). Despite having activated Google two-step verification, this device is probably recognized as “trusted” because it is a system that is used habitually. So a new one is not required authentication at every turn.

Tracking another user’s movements is possible

A user who has the physical availability of the device could access the Google Maps Timeline page using another user’s account to know its movements in real time. In other words, by going to the travel history page, then clicking on “Today“, it becomes possible to know where the user is. In fact, it is enough to cross the information shown on the map with the movement list presented in text form in the left column.

Track movements Timeline Google Maps

Possibly doing some reload of the web page (button F5), the Timeline could become a tool for track movements of another person.

That’s why it’s important to make sure you separate user accounts on each device, at home or in the office. Each user account should be protected with its own password and other users should not be able to access another person’s desktop.

In this regard, the use of a solution such as Bitlocker, with the request for a PIN when starting the machine, allows you to avoid the use of “tricks” such as those shown in the articles for recovering a forgotten password in Windows 10 or to force access to the Windows 11 system. Also not to be underestimated is the “gabola” that allows you to access another user’s desktop without knowing the password.

The opening image is taken from Pixabay.

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