Google found collecting Android users’ location data even when location services are disabled

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Search giant Google has been found collecting the location data of Android users even when location services have been disabled, a new report has found. The report also suggests that Android collects user location data even when you haven’t inserted a SIM card.

The report, published by Quartz, says that Google’s Android operating system has been collecting addresses of nearby cell phone towers and sending the data back to Google when there is an active internet connection. This allows Google to collect extremely fine location data of all Android users, even when the user has disabled the location services on their Android device. This is a serious problem and has the potential to cause serious privacy violations in different markets across the globe.

In its findings, Quartz reports that Google is using its cloud messaging system (Firebase Cloud Messaging service) to collect user location data. The report goes on to suggest that this has been going on for the past 11 months, suggesting that this collection policy started in 2017.

Google, for its part, says that this system was introduced to improve the speed and performance of message delivery. Additionally, Google also suggests that it has not added Cell ID collection to its systems, claiming that any data related to Cell IDs was immediately discarded. The statement further says that it has updated its systems to no longer request Cell ID.

Google’s data collection system can pose a serious privacy risk to users who prefer to keep tracking services at bay. Even though their phone settings may turn off location tracking, Google’s collection systems mean that those settings are worthless, as this report has pointed out. Using cell tower data, Google can essentially triangulate users within a quarter-mile or even less radius.