Google collects location data on Android even when location services are disabled

Alfred Osborne
November 21, 2017

That data is then sent back to Google, which may be an invasion of privacy, the report says.

While we know Google uses our handsets to monitor location data, one would imagine that turning off location services stops this practice.

There are approximately 215,000 cell towers in the U.S.as of September 2017, compared to just 900 in 1985, prior to the modern day explosion of smart devices such as phones and tablets.

'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'.

It can be safely assumed that all the users using an Android smartphone must have seen or used the Google Calendar app and service as well.

Google collects location data on Android even when location services are disabled

After being contacted by Quartz, Google said it is working to end the practice by the end of November. The publication also found that even after a device is reset to factory default and location services disabled, they continue to send the cell tower data to the company.

So even if message speed and performance could be enhanced by the Android OS knowing a user's cell tower location, Google should at least be asking people to opt in to that location-tracking enhancement and/or providing them with a way to opt out. "While information about a single cell tower can only offer an approximation of where a mobile device actually is, multiple towers can be used to triangulate its location to within about a quarter-mile radius, or to a more exact pinpoint in urban areas, where cell towers are closer together", writes the publication. So, despite disabled location services on your Android phone, Google still has a fair idea of where you are. A Google spokesperson explained in an email that using Cell ID codes could help further improve the speed and performance of message delivery on Android phones.

While Google says it doesn't use the location data it collects using this service, its does allow advertisers to target consumers using location data, an approach that has obvious commercial value. In the case of devices that don't have a SIM card installed, location data is recorded and stored until a device is within Wi-Fi range. It is a blatant disregard for users' privacy and given the market share of Android devices, the implications are massive.

Google claims that app is misleading users by hiding its tracking behavior while linking to APKs outside of the Play Store is also against Google's rules.

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