Google reportedly collects users’ location information via Android phones even when GPS is turned off. Turning off GPS will not protect you.
Your phone knows where you are at pretty much often all times. This is no surprise—that’s part of the appeal. The investigation shows that Android smartphones deliver the details to Google when the mobile is usually connected to the web.
According to a report in Quartz, the technology major has been tracking location data even if a user disables GPS, apps, and even removes SIM card from an Android smartphone. The report says that the user location data tracking has been in practice since start of this year. The company essentially collects addresses of nearby cellular towers, even when location services are turned off on the device.
How? The operating system automatically tracks the location of the cell towers it is connecting to. And then phones the information home to Google automatically, a policy which Google confirmed to Quartz.
A spokesperson from Google has been cited by Quartz as saying that the tech giant has been collecting mobile tower addresses with an aim to better the delivery of push notifications and SMS on Android mobiles. Google confirmed that the service has been live for over 11 months now.
In an attempt to explain the practice, they said:
“In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery,” the Google spokesperson said in an email. “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.”
Google told Quartz that this practice has existed for 11 months, but that the information was never stored or used and furthermore that the process will now be ended. Google has reportedly said, “Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers cannot disable.”