Google's new Your Timeline feature shows all the places you've visited, using your smartphone's GPS. Learn how to use to your advantage.
Sarah MitroffManaging Editor
Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
Google Maps has been tracking everywhere your phone has gone, and now it's ready to share that data with you, and only you. Using a handy new feature called Your Timeline on the Web and Android, you can see all of the places you've visited to plotted on a map, plus detailed itineraries of your travels.
While the prospect of Google tracking your every move is sure to bother some people, I've found that Your Timeline is a really neat tool for keeping track of my trips and vacations, or simply remembering a random day in my life.
To protect your privacy, you first need to consent to have Google follow your travels. If at any point you turned on Location History in your Google account, such as setting up Google Now to remember where you parked or commute alerts, then the company is already tracking you.
Check if Location History is enabled for you with these steps:
Sign into your Google account on a computer.
Head to the My Account page.
Click Personal info & privacy and scroll to Places you go.
If the slider is blue, Location History is on and you're good to go.
True to its name, Your Timeline shows a daily record of every place you've been, the time you arrived and departed, as well as the approximate route you took between locations. If you use Google Photos , pictures you took at the particular place, date and time will show up in your timeline too.
All of that information appears on the Your Timeline page on desktop and in the latest version of the Google Maps Android app. However, you'll get the most features from browsing on a computer. There you'll see a world map with dots on the places you've gone. You can zoom into particular cities to get a more detailed view and click on dots to see the address or point of interest.
On the left side of the page, you can browse various dates to see your available timelines. In my experience, Google doesn't seem to record data from every single day, instead it focusing on trips where you leave your normal area. One my account, I can see the occasional commute or trip to the store, but there's more emphasis on trips that span several days and took me at least 50 miles from home. I also don't have a timeline for every single day, despite having Location History turned on for the last several years. However, your data may vary.
Editing a timeline
While Google does its best to pinpoint the exact addresses, businesses and points of interest you've hit, it doesn't always get it right. In that case, you can edit the incorrect places in your timeline and add places it missed altogether.
Hover over the name of a place and click the arrow to pick a different option from the menu or search for a specific location.
To add a new place to your timeline, hover your mouse over the line on the far left until the plus sign appears and click it.
Search for a location and tell Google approximately when you arrived and departed, then click Save to add it to the timeline.
Though Google has faced a lot of scrutiny over tracking your location and showing it in Your Timeline, I think the feature is a neat way to automatically create a record of your travels. That said, I absolutely understand the privacy concerns that Your Timeline brings up, even though the data is only available for you to view.
If it makes you uncomfortable, simply shut off Location History to stop Google from tracking your locations. But if you're willing to let Google stay on your tail, Your Timeline can be a neat feature to chronicle your daily commutes and bigger trips.