Google admits it tracked user location data

Google admits it tracked user location data

Android devices that have location services disabled, have been factory reset and even devices that don't have a SIM card are likely subject to this data collection.

Your Android phone could be tracking your location even when you when you haven't turned on location services or even have a SIM card, a report by Quartz has revealed.

"Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they're connected to the internet", Quartz reported late on Tuesday.

Since the start of the year, Android devices with a cellular or Wi-Fi connection have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers and sending the data back to Google.

Though the company claims that the data is encrypted and is not stored anywhere, there is still a risk of this sensitive information being shared with third party apps which can result in a potential misuse if the device is affected by any malware or an attack by hackers.

Rather, Google had been collecting cell tower data from all modern Android devices. The company does say that location services data is collected, but it is not shared with anybody.

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Location tracking enables Goole to determine, for example, whether an individual with an Android phone or with Google apps has visited a specific high street store.

The report by Quartz revealed that Google has been allegedly doing this since they changed to the Firebase Cloud Messaging service.

And as Google and other companies delve deeper into designing and manufacturing their own devices, specifically smartphones, the concept of privacy diminishes and eventually disappears. Services GPS-navigation provide information about the location of the object in several different ways. A Google representative said the company included that information in order to improve the performance and overall speed of messaging.

As an advertiser Google is very much in the position to profit from knowing where you are with advertisers keen to offer you location based ads at any time - even if they didn't use the data (this time) it's still worrying.

"People should be 100% confident that if they opt out of services or disable connectivity from their devices they will be free from having their data, location or movements monitored and tracked", chief executive Renate Samson said. It's also not very reassuring to know the whole cell-tower location data monitoring thing will end later this month.

"We never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded", it said in a statement.

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