Android phones still track you when location services are off

Android phones still track you when location services are off

Android phones still track you when location services are off

According to Quartz, Android phones have been recording cellular addresses (or "Cell ID codes" as Google calls them) from cellular towers even if users have disabled the "Location Services" setting that accesses the Global Positioning System to pinpoint where the device has been. Google uses this data to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones.

That means Google has access to data about the locations and movements of any Android user.

Google has only said that it was done to "further improve the speed and performance of message delivery".

Google claims that by the end of November, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google.

A spokesperson for the tech giant explained the location data was needed to improve those services, but Quartz experts couldn't explain how cell tower data could help improve a messaging service.

Google is no stranger to controversies over privacy, but a new revelation about Android phones is pretty chilling.

After being called out about the practice, Google said that it will stop Android devices from sending the Cell ID by the end of this month. Google confirmed the news when it was contacted for comment. Companies can use phone data to track when someone enters a certain store.

Google allows users to disable location services within the Settings of its Android operating system
GOOGLEGoogle allows users to disable location services within the Settings of its Android operating system

There appears to be no way for a user to switch off the data collection.

An investigation by Quartz found that Android devices that are setup not to send data to Google continue to gather data about people's locations, and will then send that data back to Google once they eventually connect to the internet. Google does offer details on how to control Google's location access points, though after reading through the instructions, the company could admittedly do a better job of making this clearer and simpler for its general consumers.

Google's privacy policy says: "When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location". Triangulating between cell towers will reveal a device's location to a high degree of accuracy, especially in urban areas where towers are more common. Google said that it never stored or used the information though.

Even if Google didn't use the data itself, security commenters say that collecting it without permission is potentially risky.

Knowing the location of one nearby cell tower is not enough to identify the specific location of a handset, and it's user.

This is a troubling practice to be engaged in, no matter how temporary the storage of cell site data.

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