Android Location Settings
Updates to Location Settings Management
The Android updates from 4.3 to 4.4.2 introduced new features to the way that Android notifies access by an application to information about the location of the device. My experience has been that Android location notifications appear to be inconsistent and misleading.
The changes to Android location notifications are described at the Manage location for your device page.
Some apps cause the display of a location icon on the right of the notification bar at the top of the screen. The location icon looks like the pin that is used to highlight a place in Google Maps (an upside down teardrop).
Some apps are shown in the Recent Location Requests list in Settings --> Location.
Some apps appear on the Recent Location Requests list in a seemingly random way. Some apps seem to disappear quickly from the Recent Location Requests list while other apps seem to stay on the list forever.
Some apps appear on the Recent Location Requests list but don't seem to cause a location icon to appear in the notification bar.
App Usage of Location Icon Location Requests List
The Google My Tracks app records my path, speed, distance, and elevation while I travel and appears to operate as I would expect ...
- Starting the app does not trigger a location icon in the notification bar at the top of the screen and does not add an entry to the Recent Location Requests list.
- Tapping to start recording a trip triggers a location icon to appear in the notification bar and triggers an entry to the Recent Location Requests list.
- Tapping to stop recording a trip causes the location icon to disappear from the notification bar.
The BBC Weather app appears in the Recent Location Requests list without the app having been started. It appears that the BBC Weather app has a background task that starts when the device is switched on. The BBC Weather app appears in the Recent Location Requests list when the widget is in a home screen and when the widget is not in the home screen.
The Google Play app appears in the Recent Location Requests list in an erratic way. I did not see an entry in the Recent Location Requests list immediately after starting the app nor did an entry appear when I tried various searches and application downloads using the Google Play app. But, an entry did appear in the Recent Location Requests list when I left the Google Play app running overnight. I have no idea why the Google Play entry appeared in the list. I have never seen the Google Play app cause a location icon to appear in the notification bar at the top of the screen.
I started and stopped the CNN app and the CNN app immediately appeared in Recent Location Requests list. The CNN app disappeared from list about 15 minutes after the app was closed. Starting the CNN app and reading news items using the CNN app did not cause a location icon to appear in the notification bar at the top of the screen.
Google Search appeared in the Recent Location Requests list immediately after I turned on my phone. After about an hour of not using my phone, I checked the Settings and Google Search was not listed. I displayed the Task List and swiped to remove Settings. I again displayed the Recent Location Requests list and Google Search was listed. I had not attempted a search nor done anything else that would need access to location information.
I started the CNN app and the Google My Tracks app and both appeared in the Recent Location Requests list. I switched off my phone and then switched it on again. The Recent Location Requests list entries were still present.
In summary, I did not see consistency in the use of the location icon in the notification bar. I did not see consistency in the display of apps in the Recent Location Requests list. In my opinion, it would be unwise to rely on the location icon or the Location Requests list if privacy is important to you.
Tapping Google Location Reporting in Settings --> Location displays options for Location Reporting and Location History that can be switched on and off.
Enabling Location Reporting allows Google Apps to use data about your recent location in association with other information that Google has about you.
Enabling Location History allows Google to keep a record of everywhere that you go. Google even have a nice map so that I can see where I went on each day during the past month. I am sure that everyone at Google would fight to the death to make sure that this information is kept private.