Google Has Been Collecting Android User Data Without Their Knowledge

23 November, 2017, 01:44 | Author: Carmen Reese
  • Google tracked your location even when the location setting was turned off

As a result Google could in theory track the location of the Android device and therefore the user, despite a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The report reveals that the company is mysteriously collecting location data since early 2017 after a change to the Firebase Cloud Messaging service.

This isn't some boy cried wolf situation though, as the report says: "Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice".

"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", the source said.

Since the start of 2017, Android devices have been recording the location of nearby cellular towers and relaying that information back to Google.

In a nutshell, the problem is that for almost a whole year - since January 2017 - Android devices have been collecting addresses of nearby cell towers and reporting them back to Google, regardless of any individual user settings.

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Whats even more questioning is how Google is collecting this data to improve message delivery? We use various technologies to determine location, including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell towers.

A report Tuesday was a good reminder that no matter what you've done to keep your phone from tracking you, your phone is still tracking you.

"If Google is not careful it may well find itself the subject of not only regulatory fines in the UAE for violation of the regulations imposed by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority but also breach of individual consumer rights leading to civil and criminal actions", she said. That particular feature helps provide a device's specific geographic location to applications on a device.

This violation of privacy will hopefully be removed if Google is no longer using the data, but for now the only way to avoid this is to remove Google services from your device. However, while looking at one tower wouldn't give an exact location, cross-referencing several towers does give a fairly precise indication of where the device is. In today's connected world its quintessential for smartphones to have access to your location, be it for navigation, social media check-in or to use apps like Uber and Lyft.

Meanwhile, Google's privacy policy does include the following section on "location information" (below) which states that users of "Google services" may have their location data collected, including mobile tower data.

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