Google found to be collecting location data from Android users without permission

Thursday, 23 Nov, 2017

Even as the widening debate on encryption and fundamental right to privacy continues to die down, the latest report on Google's location data collection may come as a shocker for many.

Google in its terms of use for its services vaguely refers, "When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location".

Quartz said that Google's Cell ID location tracking went "beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy".

While we love Android so much for its easy and vast customization features smartphones running the OS have reportedly been gathering users' location data and sending it to Google.

If you want to prevent Google from locating you, you can always turn off the location settings on your Android phone.

This means the phone doesn't even need to have a SIM card in it for Google to be able to pinpoint where you are, raising privacy concerns for those who have explicitly asked to stay incognito. Confirmed by Google, the company has been doing this for about a year, but now they say they will stop.

Most Android devices by default (so long as they have Google services, anyway) track the location of the owner.

While the revelation may cause alarm for Android users, Google insists that the data was neither stored nor used. That data is used to ensure the phone stays properly connected to Google's Firebase Cloud Messaging system, which handles the delivery of messages and notifications to the smartphone. The operating system then sends that location data to Google-meaning that every precaution taken to keep one's location from being tracked is in vain. After Quartz contacted Google, it said the phones would no longer send this data to the company from the end of the month. However, it doesn't say anything specific about whether or not this continues to apply when location services have been disabled.

According to news site Quartz, since January Google has been using a practice that "pings" nearby telephone masts and gathers their addresses before sending the information back to the technology giant.

However, after seeing that many users are not happy with the service, it promised to disable Cell ID. It is unclear now how this would actually help message delivery times or improve on the current iteration of Firebase Cloud Messaging. Barely a year ago, Uber revealed that its app was collection user location data even after the ride was over.

The company apparently distinguishes between its push notifications, messaging services, and location services.