It takes some time, but you can completely control the location history Google collects from your devices.

Google Maps

We've already covered how to remove individual locations and history items from Google Maps on Android, but when you need to access and manage all of your location history, you need to hop onto the computer. As the old saying goes, "knowledge is power" — and we're going to give you all of the tools necessary to know what information Google knows about your location, and how to clean it up or stop further reporting.

Accessing and managing your Google location history

Google Location Settings

First thing's first, you'll need to make sure you're signed into your Google account and go to the Google Location History dashboard on the web. On this page, you'll see every bit of history Google has logged for where your Google-connected devices have been located, so long as you have opted in to location reporting on the device.

You can go day-by-day through the history using the calendar on the left side of the screen, with the map on the right populating the information collected on that day. Red dots are places that your devices have been, and Google does its best job at coordinating timestamps to show where you moved throughout that day. If you have more than one Android device turned on with location reporting, your map will be far less useful for determining where you went — Maps thinks you constantly bounce back and forth between the location of the two devices.

If you don't want Google to remember data from a specific day or set of days, use the drop-down menu under the calendar to select a time period — 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 14 or 30 days — and then click the Delete history from this time period link below it. A pop-up window will ask you to confirm, and explain that it may take up to 24 hours for the data to be deleted completely from the dashboard.

If for some reason you wish to delete all location data Google has from your devices — which may not be a bad idea from time-to-time if you want to keep things fresh — you can simply click the Delete all history link on the left. Again you'll be asked to confirm, and it may take up to 24 hours for everything to be cleared out. But once you do it, Google will no longer have any of that data.

Double check your phone's location history settings

Google Location Settings

If looking at your location history is a bit of a shocking experience as to how much location data is being stored from your devices, you may want to consider looking at the location history settings on your devices. Though the interface may look slightly different depending on your phone, everyone can access the location history settings by going into their app drawer and opening the Google Settings app (it's a grey icon shaped like a gear). You can then tap Location, which will launch you into your phone's location settings screen.

Once there, look for an entry called Google Location Reporting and tap it. You'll then see all of your active Google Accounts on the device listed, and two entries under each: Location Reporting and Location History. You can turn either one or both off, but it's important to first understand what each one does.

Location Reporting is the service that lets Google know where your phone is right now, which will let Google apps like Google Now and Google Maps know roughly where your phone is so it can offer up location-based information. This feature is what helps you quickly get located on a map without first locking on GPS, or gives location-based information when you walk by certain stores or areas. If you were to turn off this setting your phone wouldn't give its current location to Google apps, but it will still keep that location history when you view it from the Google Location History Dashboard.

Location History is the setting that lets Google create a long-term log of places where your phone has been. When you have Location History turned on Google will aggregate location data of your device(s) and use it for things like commute time predictions in Google Now and better search results in Google apps. Location history is kept private and you can access it any time you wish, as we've shown above. You can turn off this Location History setting at any time without deleting your history, but if you wish to delete all location history you can do so from this setting or from the web, as we've shown.

Take the time, take control of your location history

Now that you have the tools and know-how, we encourage you to spend a little time checking your device's settings and seeing what location information Google has collected from those devices. It isn't always approachable or simple, but now that you know the right places to go you have the power to manage it yourself!