Investigation Finds Google Collected Location Data Even With Location Services Turned Off

Android phones gather your location data and send it to Google, even if you've turned off location services and don't have a SIM card, Quartz reported today.

The practice that Google has been employing has potential dangers in that a particularly skilled individual could use multiple cell towers to triangulate someone's location to within or quarter-of-a-mile or closer.

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

This Cell ID code is encrypted and "immediately discarded" a Google spokesperson told us.

It's unclear if Google would have moved towards discontinuing this unhanded location data collection if Quartz had not found it out and contacted them.

A spokesperson from the firm also said that Location Services are "distinctly separate" from the system that controls push notifications and messages.

Google will remove the feature that collects data from cell towers from Android devices by the end of November.

It is not clear how cell-tower addresses, transmitted as a data string that identifies a specific cell tower, could have been used to improve message delivery.

As a result, Google's parent company Alphabet whose original moto was "Don't be Evil, ' has access to consumer data that is at odds with users" privacy expectations. 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.

The revelation comes as Google and other internet companies are under fire from lawmakers and regulators, including for the extent to which they vacuum up data about users.

Google says that Android phones collect the addresses of nearby cellular towers and transmit the information back to its servers, but claims that the data is "never used or stored" ... The cell tower addresses were part of this information being sent to that system.

It seems Google is testing a new design layout for the Google Play Store app on mobile which adds a notification section to the proceedings.

Cell tower locations are very important, although not a very precise indicator of where you might be.

When it comes to your location data, sometimes you just want to keep things to yourself and not send every single data point regarding your whereabouts to the cloud.


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