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Google admits tracking Android phone location even when setting was turned off


Android phones gather your location data and send it to Google, even if you’ve turned off location services and don’t have a SIM card. It’s a practice that customers can’t opt out of, even if their phones are factory reset.

Phones running Android have been gathering data about a user’s location and sending it back to Google when connected to the internet, with Quartz first revealing the practice has been occurring since January 2017.

This makes search engine giant have access to huge amount of data that invade users’ privacy. Since January, all kinds of Android phones and tablets have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers and sending the encrypted data to Google’s push notifications and messaging management system when connected to the internet.

Also Read: After US, Indian govt demands more of users private data: Google report

“In January this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery,” a Google spokesperson was quoted as saying.

A source familiar with the matter said the cell tower addresses were being sent to Google after a change in early 2017 to the Firebase Cloud Messaging service, which is owned by Google and runs on Android phones by default.

Also Read: UC Browser allegedly leaks data of Indian users, may face ban if found guilty

Google Privacy Policy on Location information says that “When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location. We use various technologies to determine location, including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, Wi-Fi access points, and cell towers.”

In a world where privacy is the utmost concern, this is a pretty frightening news to hear, which could also create a bigger target for hackers looking to obtain personal information.

Also Read: No privacy: China govt have access to everything you chat through WeChat

In the past year, AccuWeather was accused of collecting location data from its app without telling users, and Uber has been criticized for gathering location data even when the app wasn’t in use.

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