Android Collected User Location Data Even When Asked Not To


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. (It wouldn't be necessarily reasonable to assume cell providers weren't, as that's what's needed to deliver messages and notifications if the user isn't using a WiFi connection.) But no one would reasonably assume the operating system would still send cell tower info to Google with the SIM card pulled.

According to Google, Cell ID codes help the cell tower to improve speed and performance of message delivery on Android phones. The company claims it did not put this information into the sync system though, which means it was allegedly discarded immediately. Still collecting data when the user has explicitly toggled it off is not a nice move by Google. The company says the data has never been used or stored, and it is planning on ending the practice by the end of the month.

It's certainly worth bringing up Google's privacy policy, which touches on location data collection and how it's collected. Google pledged to put an end to the data collection by the end of the month, or at least not beam back home cell tower data, a service that Android users can not shut down.

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Many people realize that smartphones track their locations.

The data was gathered as part of an effort to find out how often a phone should "ping" a cell tower to stay connected to Google's servers, a process Google calls "heartbeat analysis", Google says. That's especially true looking at it from a security perspective, as this cell tower data could be compromised if an Android device were to be stolen.

Although Google is preparing to end the program, the findings may create a distrust between Google's Android and some users. It's unclear exactly how tracking the addresses of cell towers could improve the delivery of messages. Google demands that the app must present a unique icon and persistent notification so the user can clearly identify it. Google has also asked app owners to make these changes in the app in 7 days, otherwise, it will be removed from Play Store. So, it doesn't need location services to know your location. But knowing the address of at least three nearby cell towers could result in the exact location of that device via a method known as triangulation. According to Quartz, they do this whenever they are connected to a Wi-Fi network.