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  1. If I disable Location History and keep Location Reporting enabled, will Google still save the Locations I've been to? I am purchasing an Android phone for the first time and I am quite paranoid about security.

  2. If I use plain GPS and not Google Location Services, will I be missing anything?

  3. Is using Google Maps on Android secure, or should I use any alternate apps. I am looking for an offline GPS that I can use for apps like Runtastic etc.

  • 1) In theory no, but probably, can be deleted at any time. 2) It will ONLY use GPS and not WiFi location and use more battery and not work indoors. 3) Opinion based. If you don't trust Google I guess Android is a bad idea to begin with to be honest. – RossC Sep 4 '14 at 9:16
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    The answer to "Is X secure?" is always "secure against what?" What are you worried about? It's secure in the sense that it won't let people run malware on your phone, but that's probably not what you're thinking of. – Dan Hulme Sep 4 '14 at 9:35
  • If you're "that paranoid", I might refer you to my Android without Google series. I can not really proof it, but I would bet Google is collecting all it can get – and disabling history just disables you from seeing it. There were enough other "incidents" where similar things were discovered which I could name (but don't fit in a comment, nor are on-topic here). – Izzy Sep 4 '14 at 16:32
  • @RossC 2) can be done with OpenCellID for WiFi/Cell location. Concerning "Can be deleted any time" I have my doubts. That was said for backups of WiFi APs as well – still, tech magazin Heise found them restored weeks later. For 3) – Android != Google. The former works fine without the latter (see link in my previous comment). Not sure if that can be said the other way around, too ;) But yes: definitely opinion-based. – Izzy Sep 4 '14 at 16:38
  • @Izzy yeah can (in theory) be deleted. Unofficially (from sources) Chrome saves an extraordinary amount of data on the user, and it's saved full time. I wouldn't trust it myself tbh. Yeah Android and Google can be separated but it is hard to disable EVERYTHING and be sure there's nothing running somewhere behind the scenes. I can't tell the actual story but suffice to say I have seen people quit jobs and face serious hardship, claiming ethical concerns around data gathering in certain applications / browsers/ OS functions. Then the OEMs store their own data and send it out.... – RossC Sep 5 '14 at 10:53
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Summing up all the comments:

Will Google save the locations?

Definitely. As soon as you want to use the more battery-friendly “network based location” you have to agree that Google collects your location data “to improve its services”:

Enable location access
click image for larger variant

So “location history” and ”location report” are meaningless in this context. As it was adressed: Whilest theoretically you should be able to delete all collected data associated with your account, first Google claims here it's “anonymous” (so not connected to your account) – and second, noone except Google can tell if “deleting” really means the data was “destroyed”. Different reports rather suggest otherwise, as e.g. a German tech magazin found out: They decided to delete all backups from Google servers. Weeks later, they wanted to test a new device, and configured it with the very same account. Miraculously, that device immediately connected to their WiFi. How can that be, with the backups deleted? (Find the full article here, in German).

Will you miss anything when switching to GPS only?

Depends on your “usage profile”. When no satellites are in sight, you would be unable to find your location. That could be e.g. with heavy clouds, or inside buildings – where otherwise a “coarse location” based on WiFi APs and mobile cell IDs would be possible. But there are ways to get that functionality back without Google: The OpenCellID project is aimed to provide the data, and there are several connected apps – including alternative open source network location providers. But to use those, your device must be rooted, as these services must be installed as system apps. You can find out more in my Android without Google series.

Should you use alternative maps?

That's pretty much opinion-based. I do so, but not solely for the reasons you mentioned. There are alternatives (part 2 of the just mentioned series names some). Furthermore, let me quote Dan here:

The answer to "Is X secure?" is always "secure against what?" What are you worried about? It's secure in the sense that it won't let people run malware on your phone, but that's probably not what you're thinking of.

IMHO you cannot avoid completely that some services collect data on you. You can minimize it, you can make it harder for them – and you definitely shouldn't offer your data on a silver tablet. It's always balancing privacy and convenience. So how much privacy you can gain, depends on how much convenience you're willing to give up.

More hints

Not only if you're absolutely paranoid (correct: today that's called “informed”), a can offer you advantages. As those usually ship without all the pre-installed bloat, your battery will last much longer (on my “Android device without Google”, 3 times longer: 4,5 days, and still 20% left). In this context, I have to mention Replicant – which is aimed at absolute open-source. Unfortunately, only few devices are supported.

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    Great write up! +1 – HasH_BrowN Sep 5 '14 at 21:20

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