Android has tracked location info regardless of privacy settings

Quartz reported today that Android phones have been gathering your location data and sending it to Google, even if you turned off location services on your phone and no SIM card inside.

Google has only said that it was done to "further improve the speed and performance of message delivery". Google said it discarded all of the cell tower data and didn't proceed with the plan like they originally wanted to.

Online publication Quartz observed Android phones collecting the addresses of nearby mobile phone masts and sending them back to Google.

The addresses are sent to the system the Menlo Park based search company uses to manage push notifications and messages.

This move appears to be a protective strategy by Google, as the tech giant has warned Cerberus on its Google+ account claiming that the app is in violation of the Play Store's Malicious Behaviour Policy.


The transmissions have been made for the past 11 months, but were never stored or used by the company, a spokesman told Mr Collins. The data collected is encrypted, but the information still likely contains a unique identifier that when paired with the location info collected, does pose some security risk. Even devices that have gone through a factory reset were found to be transmitting private data back to the company.

- A new report shows that Google has been accessing data about Android users' locations, even when the user believes that the data is being kept private. Through Google's practices this year, an individual's particular location within a quarter-mile radius or less could be determined with the addresses of multiple cell towers.

As for what's being collected, the data is not as accurate as it could be. However, the real concern is that Google made a decision to transmit location info despite your privacy settings, using a service (the network sync system) you couldn't turn off. The data provides a way to categorize and label people (sometimes in unflattering terms) such as: financial newsletter subscriber, allergy sufferer, "financially challenged", Twitter user with more than 250 friends, and "working-class moms". Check out Google's Privacy Checkup page to edit what data you're sharing with the public, your friends, or even advertisers.

This is a troubling practice to be engaged in, no matter how temporary the storage of cell site data.


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