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REPORT: Android Phones Still Tracking Location, Even When Told Not to

Even if you've disabled the Location Services on your Android, chances are that Google has still been tracking your whereabouts without you realizing.


Quartz recently uncovered this revelation, stating that Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cell towers, even in phones that have disabled Location Services, don't use apps, or don't have a SIM card. The phones then send that info back to Google, which has raised concerns about consumer privacy.

Google didn't shy away from admitting to the practice when they were contacted, noting that the data was used in the management of push notifications and messages on Android phones, but also told Quartz that they'd be eliminating the practice by the end of November.

In an email, a Google spokesperson clarified the data collection, saying:

"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."

Supposedly Google uses the cell tower addresses to pinpoint where users are, and essentially sends a code identifying which tower you are closest to in order to provide the fastest delivery. It then immediately deletes the data.

Google also claims that the data collection isn't actually connected to Location Services, but is rather connected to their Firebase Cloud Messaging network sync system. The locations used in this system apparently aren't specific enough for device triangulation. But there was some concern that the Cell ID, which tracks which towers your messages go through, could be triangulated.

So it's probably good that Google is discontinuing the practice.

But Twitter users aren't too pleased to hear that their privacy may have been compromised:

Although not everyone is that surprised:

So if you truly don't want your location known, you might have to go old school:

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

H/T: Quartz, Mashable