Google collects location data on Android even when location services are disabled

Doris Richards
November 21, 2017

According to the investigation, Google's surreptitious location data collection practice has been in operation since the start of 2017, and isn't limited to users with location data enabled, or users connected to cell towers: Android phones connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi were also transmitting location data to Google. Google was apparently collecting cell tower data from "all modern Android devices" before Quartz contacted the company.

The main point of a security app like Cerberus is to be able to still track your device even after it has been lost and especially stolen.

A new report shows that Google has been accessing data about Android users' locations, even when the user believes that the data is being kept private.

Google says using Cell ID codes could help further improve the speed and performance of message delivery on Android phones.
"However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID", the spokesperson went on to say.

Quartz seems to believe that the cover story of aiding in message delivery - in this case, the Firebase Cloud Messaging service that is installed and run by default on Android devices - is a bit dubious at best, and thinks that it is a clear violation of user privacy. Using information from multiple towers, a user's location could be triangulated to within about quarter of a mile, or closer in urban areas. Android phones will stop sending Cell ID by the end of November. It was not stated whether this was a previously planned decision, or if it was a result of the practice being brought to light.

Whatever the reason Google was experimenting with harvesting Android users' location info, it's another troubling instance of the company slurping up sensitive user data without making people explicitly aware it's doing so - let alone giving users controls to opt out of another major invasion of their privacy.

When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location.

Cell-tower locations collected and sent to Google from an Android phone with location services turned off and carried in Washington, DC. So when Google tells you that you're violating their developer terms since you are not informing the "user" that you are tracking the device, then it kind of defeats the objective right?

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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