Android devices sent location to Google even when location services are switched off

Posted 21 November 2017 22:22 CET by Jan Willem Aldershoff

Android devices sent their location to Google, even if location services are switched off, according to a post by the website Quartz. Since the beginning of this year Android devices collect addresses of cell towers that are near the user and sent that data to Google.

This way it’s possible for the search giant to track users, even if  users think they have switched off location services. Users likely expect that switching off location services shields them from sending their location data to anyone

However, Android devices with data or Wifi connections sent the locations to Google every time they come close to a cell tower. Even when the Android devices are connected over a Wifi network, they will still collect addresses of cell towers nearby. Surprisingly, the collection of addresses also happens on Android devices without a sim card inserted. The behavior was also seen by devices which were just restored to factory settings and where location services were switched off.

Google has confirmed the behavior but states that the collected location data was never stored or used. The company claims it planned to use the ‘Cell ID codes’ to improve the performance of delivery of push messages.

The company claims the codes were never used and the data was deleted immediately. By the end of this month the search giant plans to stop collecting the location data.

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