Location Data from Android Devices Being Sent to Google Covertly
22 November, 2017, 01:28 | Author: Marie Harrington
It has been revealed that Android smartphones continue to send device owners' locations to Google, even if location services are turned off and a SIM card isn't inserted.
This is bad. Google actively receives location data from Android users even when location services have been switched off.
It was found that this was due to the Google collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers and this data being sent back to the tech giant. The company claims it did not put this information into the sync system though, which means it was allegedly discarded immediately.
According to Google, the data wasn't stored and was deleted as soon as it was received, but the admission still raises questions of privacy and security.
The firm is now taking steps to end the practice, it says. "Perhaps it is time for the United States to consider regulations similar to the forthcoming GDPR in the European Union to institute greater transparency around the collection of personal data, including location, and providing a mechanism for users to have greater control over what data gets stored and where". While the data collected is encrypted, it is possible for that information to be shared with third-parties or intercepted by a malicious actor.
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Quartz first discovered the suspect "location" collection on several Android devices and Google reportedly confirmed to the website it was only doing so to "further improve the speed and performance of message delivery". Google does offer details on how to control Google's location access points, though after reading through the instructions, the company could admittedly do a better job of making this clearer and simpler for its general consumers.
Apparently, Google tracks location data of users who turned off location services on their devices. The cell tower data is usually held by carrier networks.
Google's collection of cell tower data occurred when notifications were pushed or phone users utilized the phone's built-in messaging service.
A cell-tower location sent to Google from an Android device. When Android devices are connected to a WiFi network, they will send the tower addresses to Google even if they don't have SIM cards installed.
But by using data from multiple towers, a location can be triangulated within a radius of around 0.5 miles (0.8 km). Hopefully, someone at Google will soon realize that, because crippling the app would be a massive annoyance to many users. Specifically, Google is collecting addresses from nearby cellular towers.
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