Google Collects Location Data from Android Users Even When Location Services Are Disabled
Earlier this month, a security report showed that Google tracks the location data of Android users even when users have previously deactivated location services.
The new report comes from Quartz, which claims that Google has been able to access users’ location data by collecting the addresses of mobile towers. That tower is collected by your smartphone even when location services are turned off. Quartz has suggested that this technique may be an invasion of privacy.
Google admitted to the report from Quartz, although they claimed to be ending the practice at the end of the month. It’s unclear if Google was planning to do this prior to the Quartz report, or if they’re only ending the practice because of the report.
Nevertheless, here’s what a spokesperson has to say:
“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,” a Google spokesperson told Quartz.
“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 further explained in a statement to Fox News that they use mobile tower tracking to ensure messages and notifications are received quickly:
“To ensure messages and notifications are received quickly, modern Android phones use a network sync system that requires the use of Mobile Country Codes (MCC) and Mobile Network Codes (MNC).”
Google’s Location Tracking Was Not Used for Advertising Services
Researchers seem to agree that Google is telling the truth about its location tracking system: they weren’t using the system to deliver advertisements to users. Instead, the system was exclusively used to ensure the timely delivery of messages and notifications.
“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,” one unnamed source said in a statement to Australia’s News.com.au. “To maintain this connection, devices need to ping the server at a regular interval.”
Your Location is Tracked on All Android Tablets and Smartphones Even After a Factory Reset
Quartz tested a variety of Android smartphones and tablets for its research. They found the behavior was present on all Androids. Even after location services were disabled, and after the device was reset to factory settings, Android still tracked the location of the phone.
This is yet another example of the fact that if you don’t want to be tracked, then you need to avoid popular consumer electronics. Even when you disable all location data, there are still ways to be tracked. The Quartz report is a great example of this.
Fortunately, you don’t need to have the tech resources of Google to enjoy sophisticated location tracking on your Android or iPhone. You can install SpyStealth within minutes to track smartphone data of a spouse, child, or your own phone.