Can’t remember the address of that cafe you visited five years ago? Want to keep track of all the places you’ve visited around the world? Perhaps you just want to know how much Google knows about your whereabouts. (Hint: It’s a lot.)
A tool spotted by Lifehacker lets you download your entire Google location history and neatly present it in a “heat map,” with different colored blobs representing the places you’ve been. It’s called the Location History Visualizer, and although the company charges a one-time fee for premium features, the heat map tool is free.
“Everyone deserves to know what data is being collected about them, without having to fiddle with cryptic pieces of software,” according to the description on GitHub, where the data for the open-source project is being hosted. The steps are simple to follow, but it may take a while to download your location history, depending on how far and wide you’ve traveled.
You’ll want to keep two tabs open: the Google Takeout website and the Location History Visualizer site. On Google Takeout, choose “select none” at the top of the page, then toggle “location history” only. After hitting “next,” you’ll be prompted to choose the file type, archive size, and delivery method, but the default settings are suitable for most people’s needs. Finally, click “create archive” and download the file.
When it’s ready, you’ll click the Location History folder, then drag the LocationHistory.json file and drop it onto the Location History Visualizer page (alternately, you can upload it). Simply submit your email and your personalized heat map will be ready to view. You can drag and zoom in just like you would use Google Maps, but keep in mind that any places you visited in foreign countries will be presented in the local language.
As Lifehacker notes, you (and Google, of course) are the only ones that will be able to see your location data. According to an AP investigation, Google tracks the location of those with Android phones, as well as iPhone users who have Google Maps installed. Turning off Location History doesn’t stop you from being tracked, either. If you feel a little weirded out after seeing how much data Google has on you, you can put an end to it by changing the Web & App Activity settings in your Google Account. Check out this step-by-step guide from Wired for detailed instructions.