Locations data

Google tracked Android users’ locations data even when location services are disabled


Android phones collect your location info and send it to Google, even if you have turned off GPS and do not have a SIM card, Quartz reported

The term “location services” oftentimes refers to actual GPS data for app usage, like Google Maps finding your best commute route, or Uber figuring out specifically where you’re standing to let drivers know your pickup purpose. Quartz’s statement describes a practice in which Google was able to track user locations by triangulating in particular device which cell towers were presently servicing.

Since Jan, all types of Android phones and tablets are collecting the addresses of near cellular towers and sending the encrypted data to Google’s push notifications and messaging management system when connected to the net. It is a practice that customers can not opt out of even if their Mobile is reset.

A Google spokesperson said in a statement that all trendy android phones use a network synchronize system that needs mobile country codes and mobile network codes, so tower information known as “Cell ID” codes were considered an “additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery.” Google ultimately discarded the cell tower data and didn’t go through with the original plan.

A source familiar with the matter declared that Google added the cell tower data-collecting feature to improve its firebase Cloud messaging, where devices need to ping the server at regular intervals in order to receive messages promptly.

The findings are surprising, the cell tower data is usually carried out by carrier networks, and in extreme circumstances only shared with external companies. Through Google’s practices this year, an individual’s specific location within a quarter-mile radius or less can be determined with the addresses of multiple cell towers. This has particular security implications for people who would like to not be tracked, that means that the safest way to avoid being tracked at all is probably to stick to burner phones. It could also create a much bigger target for hackers trying to get personal info.

An update that removes this cell tower data-collecting feature can roll out by the end of this month, according to Google. Google’s terms of service, at the time of publish, still vaguely state, “When you use Google services, we might collect and method info regarding your actual location” mistreatment “various technologies… example including IP address, GPS, and other sensors, provide Google with info on near devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell tower.” Google does provide details on how to control Google’s location access points, although after reading through the instructions, the company could admittedly do a better job of creating this clearer and easier for its general consumers.

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