Ever thought that smartphones can track your locations? Even when location service is turned off? And your location is sent back to Google? That might just be what your android smartphones are doing according to an investigation report by Quartz Media.
The report says that Google is currently under scrutiny over allegedly collecting android user’s location even when location service has been disabled on the phone. It says that “Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google.”
Google, as you know is propriety owners of Android. The report claims that the company has access to individual’s data, which includes their locations and movement. A move which would imply a violation of users’ privacy.
Quartz had contacted Google on the outcome and said that Google confirmed the practice. It was said that Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location services, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card?
It is said that the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) will investigate Google Korea for allegedly tracking Android users’ location data without their consent, according to Korean Times. The KCC said on Thursday it will then decide if Google has infringed the Privacy Act and violated the Information Communications Network Act.
In a statement issued by Chun Ji-hyun, the manager of the KCC’s Privacy Infringement Investigation Division on Thursday, he said “We will figure out what was collected and confirm whether they violated the Information Communication Network Act and Location Information Act,”. He further said that the issue is “Not only was this a national issue, but an issue that came to light from the U.S. We will see how this is handled globally.”
According to the reports, the cell tower addresses have been included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months, according to a Google spokesperson. They were never used or stored, the spokesperson said, and the company is now taking steps to end the practice after being contacted by Quartz. By the end of November, the company said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers cannot disable.
This practice is absolutly troubling for people who’d prefer they weren’t tracked, especially for those such as law-enforcement officials or victims of domestic abuse who turn off location services thinking they’re fully concealing their whereabouts. Although the data sent to Google is encrypted, it could potentially be sent to a third party if the phone had been compromised with spyware or other methods of hacking. Each phone has a unique ID number, with which the location data can be associated.
The revelation comes as Google and other internet companies are under fire from lawmakers and regulators, including for the extent to which they vacuum up data about users. Such personal data, ranging from users’ political views to their purchase histories to their locations, are foundational to the business successes of companies like Facebook and Alphabet, built on targeted advertising and personalization and together valued at over $1.2 trillion by investors.
Why does Google collect these data? the report says “its does allow advertisers to target consumers using location data, an approach that has obvious commercial value”, although Google has denied that.
Google is an American multinational technology company founded on the 4th of September 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were Ph.D students at Stanford University. The company specializes in Internet-related services and products such as online advertising technologies, search, cloud computing, and software. Most of the company’s profits are derived from AdWords, an online advertising service that places advertising near the list of search results. Google’s headquarters is in Mountain View, California.