Google Tracks Android Users' Location Even When Location Setting are Disabled

Google Tracks Android Users' Location Even When Location Setting are Disabled

Google Tracks Android Users' Location Even When Location Setting are Disabled

Smartphones and devices running Android software have been collecting data from their users and feeding it to parent company, Google, even when location data is turned off.

Android phone users may turn off their location services settings, take out their SIM card or restore their device to factory settings, but Google still collects their location data, according to a new report.

The phones pick up the position of towers, triangulates your location then sends the data back to Google Central.

Though the company claims that the data is encrypted and is not stored anywhere, there is still a risk of this sensitive information being shared with third party apps which can result in a potential misuse if the device is affected by any malware or an attack by hackers.

"In January of this year, we started looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery", the Google spokesperson said. Google has also updated its systems to ensure that cell ID information is no longer sent to its servers as part of the heartbeat feature. The report states that Android devices were sharing their location even when there was no SIM card installed and the user disabled location services. After Quartz contacted Google, it said the phones would no longer send this data to the company from the end of the month. Quartz's report details a practice in which Google was able to track user locations by triangulating which cell towers were now servicing a specific device.

According to Quartz, they "observed the data collection occur" and this was taking place via cell tower addresses.


"If Google is not careful it may well find itself the subject of not only regulatory fines in the UAE for violation of the regulations imposed by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority but also breach of individual consumer rights leading to civil and criminal actions", she said.

The second is that while cell tower information will not give the pinpoint accuracy that Global Positioning System does, it can still combine location information with other nearby cell towers and calculate a location within a quarter of a mile within the user of the device. This "issue" potentially affects all devices with Google services, with tablets and phones alike sending the same data to Google.

And as Google and other companies delve deeper into designing and manufacturing their own devices, specifically smartphones, the concept of privacy diminishes and eventually disappears.

Location services can be really useful. Google has often faced criticism over its practice of collecting large amount of user data, and the problems with cell-tower location highlights this further.

Regardless of whether it improves the experience or not, Google has access to mountains of personal data and it's apparently still not enough.

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