Sci-tech

Google admits it tracks us even with location services turned off

Google admits it tracks us even with location services turned off

Google admits Android phones have been sending it location data for the past year-but Android users shouldn't go out an buy a new iPhone just yet.

Quartz reported that since the start of 2017, Androind smartphones have been gathering info on the location of nearby cellular towers, and sent the data back to Google, without their users' unequivocal consent.

For data of nearby cellular towers, the location data of your device is not so exact.

Google's privacy policy does state that anyone who uses the company's services is subject to having their location tracked.

In a rather technical statement emailed to USA TODAY, Google offered an explanation: "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)". However, it apparently does nothing, as Android devices are still able to collect location data and send them back to Google if they are connected to the internet.

More news: Rest In Peace, Mel Tillis

Quartz has said that Google has confirmed the findings on data collection and the company's spokesperson has said that the search engine giant will take "steps to end the practice".

The news that Google was supposedly collecting data on users' locations was first broken by Quartz. Furthermore, the practice is set to end by the end of November. Google did not reveal how well secured the connections that ferried the data were, so it is to be assumed that anybody who wanted to and knew how to could have stolen the location data and used it as is to determine, cell towers in the area permitting, a user's rough whereabouts.

"It is really a mystery as to why this is not optional", said Matthew Hickey of London-based security form Hacker House. These locations are used for advertising purposes, but also provide useful services to the owner such as motion tracking, fitness statistics, future commute suggestions and more. Location data is extremely valuable for marketers, so if you've seen an nearly ad-like notification pop up on your Android phone when you've been somewhere, you now have an idea of how Google has been doing it. Earlier this year, we learned that the Uber app had found a way to fingerprint iOS users even after they'd deleted the Uber app, and up until late August, would track your location even after your ride was over.

Google does a lot of bad and creepy things that often seem to benefit Google more than users. 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.

Quartz says that the data was collected from all Android devices when they connected to a mobile or Wi-Fi network.


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