Google promises to stop tracking Android users

23 November, 2017, 01:44 | Author: Grady King
  • Screengrab via TechnoBuffalo  YouTube

Google tracks the whereabouts of your Android smartphone, regardless of whether or not users have disabled location services.

The fact that a person's location can be tracked by a third party using his or her cellphone is hardly new.

In a grim counterpoint to the news that Uber paid hackers $100,000 to keep mum after they stole information on 57 million users, Quartz revealed today that Android phones continue to report location information even while your phone is off.

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For the past 11 months, devices running on Android software have been sending "Cell ID codes", which contain data on the addresses of nearby cellular towers, to Google, according to a report from Quartz.

Google said that the data was never stored and that Cell ID requests would stop by the end of November, after an update to the messaging system. The information is then sent back to Google allowing the company to track user's movements.

The second is that while cell tower information will not give the pinpoint accuracy that Global Positioning System does, it can still combine location information with other nearby cell towers and calculate a location within a quarter of a mile within the user of the device.

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However, after seeing that many users are not happy with the service, it promised to disable Cell ID. It's now impossible for users to opt out of cell tower data collection. That is small comfort to the billions of Android users in a world which is becoming increasingly anxious about monitoring by both government and big business. Since earlier this year Android devices have been collecting locations from nearby cellular towers, this is apparently done whether you have location services on or off.

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.

Meanwhile, the section of Google's privacy policy that covers location sharing states, "When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location". While a cell tower information doesn't give away the exact position of the user it can still be improvised using signal triangulation methods.

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A Google spokesperson told ZDNet that modern Android phones use a network sync system that requires the use of mobile country codes and mobile network codes, to ensure messages and notifications are received quickly.

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