Android devices secretly funnel your private location data to Google (even if you have that setting turned OFF)

Monday, November 27, 2017 by

Information has emerged that devices operating with an Android operating system keep track of their locations. A phone’s location data is continuously tracked, even without the presence of a SIM card or apps running, until it connects to the internet where the data gathered is then sent to Google — all without the user being aware that it already happened.

This information, which was part of an in-depth report for Quartz, reveals that since the beginning of 2017, mobile phones have been collecting addresses of mobile transmitter towers near their area. The addresses are then included in the information sent to the company to manage push notifications and messages. This means that your phone keeps tabs of where you’ve been as long as you’re near a mobile transmitter, and that this information is sent to Google without you even knowing.

A representative for the company confirmed this, stating that the information gathered was part of Google’s efforts to improve message delivery. According to the DailyMail, the representative said that Cell ID codes were never incorporated into the network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded. Currently, Cell ID codes are no longer sent back to Google.

The practice has raised concerns over privacy. Users cannot disable the location-sharing activity of the devices, even after turning off or disabling the phone’s location settings. The practice is not limited to a specific model or brand of phone as well. This means a person who does not want to be located will have no option to assert his privacy. (Related: Google spy: Background noise can activate the voice assistant, which keeps recordings of your conversations.)

In addition to this, sending Cell ID codes provides an accurate location of a person at any given time. While the location sent to one cell tower may be insufficient to determine where a phone is exactly, triangulating data gathered from multiple cell towers may be used to pinpoint a mobile phone, or the person using it. This becomes even more accurate in cities, where cell towers are positioned closer to each other. Google has previously admitted to collecting details of people’s Wi-Fi networks in 2010.

The report also comes at the heels of the Supreme Court arguments regarding law enforcement officials’ capability to use location data in tracking people. The case, which will be heard on November 29, will center on the case of Timothy Carpenter, who was convicted based on mobile data gathered from wireless carriers that indicate him to be at the vicinity of two robberies. Outside location service data, the results of the case can have a far-reaching impact to other devices that transmit data to the internet like virtual assistants, or internet of things (IoT) devices such as security systems, to even fitness trackers.

The report notes that while Google does not collect using this practice, advertisers can use location data to target customers. This way, companies can aim specific products to people who are in a specific area. In addition to this, the report also stated that location was still transmitted to Google even if the phone was reset to factory default settings.

To learn more on how to protect you and your loved ones from hackers and digital spies, head over to PrivacyWatch.news today.

Sources include:

DailyMail.co.uk

Qz.com

Google.com/Adwords

GoogleBlog.Blogspot.com

Bloomberg.com




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