Android devices covertly send location data to Google
An investigation by Quartz has revealed that Google receives cell tower location data from Android devices even when a device's location service is disabled. The investigation also revealed that even devices with no SIM cards, through the use of Wi-Fi where available, were sending updated location data to Google every time they came within range of a new cell tower.
Google admits to location data harvesting
After Quartz took the findings to Google, a spokesperson said that cell tower location data harvesting had been going on for the past 11 months. Cell tower addresses were included in information sent to the system which manages push notifications and messages on Android devices. Google, however, said that location data is never stored and that it aims to end the practice by November.
Here's what Google's spokesperson had to say
"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...that data was immediately discarded," said the spokesperson.
Google caught in yet another data collection fiasco
Despite Google's reassurances, this is yet another instance of unauthorized data collection by the tech giant. In October, it was shown that a number of Google Home Mini devices had been persistently recording audio in the background, despite it being programmed to wake up on use of particular trigger words. As with the earlier case, Google is now blaming engineering experimentation for the snafu.