Google promises to stop collecting Android location data after being caught

Nov 23, 2017, 00:28
Google promises to stop collecting Android location data after being caught

Google sent that data to cellphone towers even if the phone user had explicitly switched off location services.

Google's privacy policy states: "When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location". This is apparently what Google has been doing with its Android OS.

Android smartphones have reportedly been gathering users' location data and sending it to Google even when the location services were turned off and there was no SIM card in the device. Google can determine location through data collected via GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or in some instances a cell tower.

Google's Android operating system began requesting the unique addresses of mobile phone masts, called Cell ID, during the beginning of 2017, according to one report. Companies can use phone data to track when someone enters a certain store. If you intend to test a new feature which tracks peoples location then you should at least give them the chance to opt in our out of the test. In a nutshell, the whereabouts of every active Android phone and tablet in the world were tracked even with location services disabled and no carrier SIM card inserted.

"In order for Android users to receive notifications and messages quickly, an Android device needs to maintain a persistent connection to Google servers using Firebase Cloud Messaging", the source said. These addresses are included in the data that's sent to the Google system that manages messages and push notifications for smartphones running on Android.

A spokesperson told The Verge that the cellular tower data was supposed to make message delivery faster, but Google made a decision to ditch the plan.

A Google spokesperson confirmed to Quartz that Android has been sending cell tower addresses to the company for the last 11 months. Google didn't say whether it planned to stop receiving the data before its behavior was made public. There appears to be no way for a user to disable the data collection.

The Google representative added, however, that none of this information was ever used or stored, and that this practice will be abandoned by the company by the end of November.

According to a tweet from Ashkan Soltani, a respected security researcher and the former chief technologist for the Federal Trade Commission (and advisor to the White House), that competitor was Oracle (orcl). However, the firm did say its messaging service is "distinctly separate from Location Services, which provide a device's location to apps". Or for that matter, even while you are reading news while on the go, Google requires you to share your location in order to provide you news most relevant to your locality.

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