Google collects Android user location data even if location services are off

26 November, 2017, 01:22 | Author: Lester Mason
  • General Mobile GM5 Android One

The software gathers data of the location and sends it back to Google when the phone is connected to the internet.

Regulators in South Korea summoned Google representatives this week to question them about a report that claimed the company was collecting data from Android devices even when location services were disabled. Android phones are no longer requesting Cell ID codes, and collection should be phased out this month, it said.

The probes follow a report by Quartz which found Android phones have been collecting addresses of nearby cellular towers.

The benefit of having the address of the mobile phone mast to ensure message service reliability is not clear, but through a process of triangulation - the same used to assist when a user is actively using location services - the position of the user can be revealed down to a roughly 400m radius at a minimum, and often much more accurately in urban areas. Google acknowledged updating its Android smartphone program to send the location information.

A Google spokesperson said: "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".

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Google said the data was "immediately discarded" and promised to update phones to prevent it happening in the future.

With no way to opt out, Google collecting this type of data seems extremely disturbing for Android users and a concern from security point of view.

The data was being collected as a part of the Firebase Cloud Messaging, which the app developers and Google use to send notification messages or data messages to the consumers or their own apps, Google told Quartz. "We tested technology to improve the quality of our message services, and that included a capability that allows sending Google's servers smartphone information that was recently transmitted to towers", Google Korea explained. Smartphones in South Korea that us the Android operating system of Google including LG and Samsung devices represent over 80% of the overall market, shows data from IDC the research firm.

No official investigation was launched as of yet, and additional information will be needed that will come from the USA headquarters of Google, said the KCC official.


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