In a shocking revelation, the search giant Google has been found to be collecting the location data on Android devices, even when the consumers have disabled location services. It is a blatant disregard for users’ privacy and given the market share of Android devices, the implications are massive.
In a report earlier today, Quartz stated that since early-2017, Google has been actively collecting the nearby cell tower addresses, even when location services are disabled or there is no SIM card in the device. The Mountain View-based company has acknowledged the collection of cellular tower data and said that it is making necessary changes so that Android devices stop sending the data to Google by the end of this month.
Google told Quartz that the data was being collected as a part of the Firebase Cloud Messaging, which the app developers and Google use to send notification messages or data messages to the consumers or their own apps. The company claimed that it had planned to use Cell IDs data to improve the message delivery, but it never incorporated that in the actual system, so all the data collected was discarded.
“In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery. However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID,” Google told Quartz.
What is even more worrisome is that even after deciding to not use the data, Google continued to collect it for 11 months even if it was later discarded, as the search giant claims.
Quartz further added that the cell tower data collection is not limited to any specific handset, but all modern Android phones are sending the data to Google. The publication also found that even after a device is reset to factory default and location services disabled, they continue to send the cell tower data to the company. If you have Wi-Fi or cellular data switched on, your phone will send the data to Google every time you come within the range of a new cell tower. So, despite disabled location services on your Android phone, Google still has a fair idea of where you are.
Everyone knows that Google has more information about its consumers than pretty much anyone else on the planet, but most users know from where that information is coming from and how they can stop sharing that information with Google. But when you don’t even know what is being collected about you, how can you stop it? Also, in this particular case, if you somehow even knew that your phone is sending cell tower data to Google, you have no way to stop that until Google makes changes to Android.