Google Maps Adds "My Places": An Accidental Gift to Stalkers?

Google has added a new feature to Google Maps that lets users quickly access locations they rated, starred, or saved in Google Maps. However, those who don't use this feature with care may accidentally be sharing personal information. Because maps are public by default, other users may get a gander at your saved locations.

The My Places Feature

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Google, including in its various alternative access points (Maps for Mobile, Google Places, etc.), has allowed you to rate, star, and save local businesses or addresses that you want to access frequently. However, there was no simple way to access the starred data; it appeared on a map, and would auto-populate if you started typing in the address, but unless you remembered the general location you were out of luck.

The new "My Places" tab, unveiled on the Google LatLong blog, lets users get a quick look at the locations they've reviewed, starred, or saved. That information is automatically synced with all other Google Maps access points. Further, information that you don't want to have saved can be removed with a simple "delete" button next to each entry in your My Places tab.

The Great, Accidental Gift to Stalkers

One of the main ways yours truly uses saved locations in Google Maps is to quickly access places I know I'm going to be traveling; it makes it simple to get directions. That means that some of the locations I've saved include my home, my parents' home, my favorite coffee shop, and the rock climbing studio where I have a membership. And I don't want everyone to know these locations, or know that the locations are associated with me.

If you save an item to your map, for use in My Places, you may accidentally be sharing the information. The default setting is "public" for the saved locales. There's a simple way to make sure that personal places aren't shared:

  1. Go to the new "My Places" tab.
  2. Find the saved list of locations (by default titled "My Saved Places").
  3. To the right of the list, the current privacy status will be displayed. If it says "Public," click on the name of the list.
  4. Click "Edit" at the top of the screen.
  5. Change from "Public" to "Unlisted."

From there you can simply save all your personal locations to one list that's kept off the public web and all your public locations to another. In both cases, you'll be able to access the data from the new Google Maps tab.