Android devices send your location to Google even when services are off

Some people are more concerned about privacy than others when using their computing devices, and for those that want to keep their whereabouts unknown, turning off Location Services should be the way to do that. As it turns out though, Android phones are sending your location back to Google anyway, according to an investigation from Quartz.

Not only does the data collection happen when services are turned off, but the user doesn't even have to have a SIM card inserted into the handset, or have any apps installed. It works by finding the address of the nearest cellular towers, and while it's not possible to pinpoint your location based on only that, it can be triangulated down to a quarter-mile radius. If there's no cellular data, it sends the location when you're connected to Wi-Fi.

Google has confirmed that it has been collecting this data since the beginning of the year, also saying that it's not doing it anymore, in its statement to Quartz:

"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."

A spokesperson from the firm also said that Location Services are "distinctly separate" from the system that controls push notifications and messages. Because of this, there was simply no way to opt out. The only way to keep this from happening would be to not have any cellular connection or Wi-Fi.

Obviously, the vast majority of Alphabet's revenue comes from advertising, and a good deal of targeted advertising includes tracking your location. Luckily, Google said that it doesn't use the location services collected through this method for that.

Report a problem with article
Next Article

Apple's HomePod featured over a dozen speakers at one point

Previous Article

Interview with Matt Kaplan, General Manager of LastPass

54 Comments - Add comment