Many people know smartphones track their locations, but Android devices can gather location data and send it to Google even when location services are disabled. As long as you have cellular data or Wi-Fi connection support in your smartphone, Google can collect your location details even if the device does not have a SIM installed, reports Quartz.
Quartz discovered Android smartphones collecting data without consent and contacted Google, which affirmed the practice.
In its defence, Google says that it does not store the location information but instead uses the data to manage push notifications and perk up message delivery.
As explained in the report, a single cell tower offers an approximation of where a mobile device is, whereas, multiple towers help triangulate the user’s location.
The use of multiple cell towers can find a user’s location within a quarter-mile radius. A more exact spot can be known depending upon the proximity of cell towers.
Location data sharing to stop within a month
By the end of November, the company said that Android phones won’t send cell-tower location data to Google. We might expect the issue to be resolved with a software upgrade. This may come as apart of the December security patch or a server-side change.
Although the data is encrypted, it is possible to send it to third-party services if the smartphone is compromised.
Each phone comes with a unique ID number with which the location data can be linked. While Google says it doesn’t use the data, it permits advertisers to target consumers using the same.
Nonetheless, these findings raise some serious questions on the search giant’s take on user privacy and security.