Google Questioned by Regulators About Location Data

Android devices still track you when location services are turned off

Google has been collecting location data on Android phones, even when the location services are disabled, according to Quartz.

Previously, the U.S. website Quartz reported that Android smartphones had been relaying location information to Google servers in real time without the user's consent since the beginning of 2017, confirming that the transmission took place "even when location services are disabled".

Even though the information is encrypted when it is sent back to Google, a third party could still compromise the system.

If Google collected Cell IDs without consent, the company may have violated South Korea's Location Data Protection Act, whether the data was stored on Google's US servers or not, said Hwang Sun-chul, an official with KCC's commission's privacy infringement division. Google acknowledged updating its Android smartphone program to send the location information.

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Google said the data was collected to improve notifications and message delivery, and was not stored on Google servers.

Moreover, this function works even without Global Positioning System, and SIM card.

Those with Android devices, which use the web giant's operating system, have been unwittingly sending their location to the company whenever they are in range of a mobile mast. A Google spokesperson said the data was "immediately discarded".

Google said it had been collecting the tower addresses for 11 months "as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery". "You can kind of envision any number of circumstances where that could be extremely sensitive information that puts a person at risk". Android phones no longer request Cell ID codes, and the collection should be ended in November, said Google. "It seems quite intrusive for Google to be collecting such information that is only relevant to carrier networks when there are no SIM card or enabled services". The more pings, the greater the battery drain, so the data collected about the country and mobile networks is used to work out the the minimum number of pings required to stay connected without draining the battery - so called heartbeat analysis. The company can tell using precise location tracking, for example, whether an individual with an Android phone or running Google apps has set foot in a specific store, and use that to target the advertising a user subsequently sees.

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