Friday, 15 December, 2017

Google tracks location even if setting disabled

REUTERS  Dado Ruvic  IllustrationA 3D printed Android logo is seen in front of a displayed cyber code in this illustration taken REUTERS Dado Ruvic IllustrationA 3D printed Android logo is seen in front of a displayed cyber code in this illustration taken
Cecilia Poole | 25 November, 2017, 01:04

Smartphones running Android software could gather data about locations and send them to Google, even if the users turn off location services, use no apps, and don't insert a SIM card, a Quartz investigation reported on Tuesday.

A NEW report shows that Google has been accessing data about Android users' locations, even when the user believes that the data is being kept private.

"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", a Google spokesman said in a statement to CNNMoney. It's particularly easier to pinpoint a device's location in urban centers where cell towers are more concentrated. "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". But the privacy implications of the covert location-sharing practice are plain.

Even though the information is encrypted when it is sent back to Google, a third party could still compromise the system.

If Google collected Cell IDs without consent, the company may have violated South Korea's Location Data Protection Act, whether the data was stored on Google's USA servers or not, said Hwang Sun-chul, an official with KCC's commission's privacy infringement division. Even after the device was reset to a factory default setting and location services were disabled, Quartz still noted that the location was being transmitted to Google. Instead, the cell-tower address data was being collected from all new Android devices as the result of a change to Google's Firebase cloud messaging service in early 2017.

Google said the data was collected to improve notifications and message delivery, and was not stored on Google servers.

When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location.

This is not the first time that Google has been caught collecting user data in an unexpected manner.

"It is really a mystery as to why this is not optional", said Matthew Hickey, a security expert and researcher at Hacker House, a security firm based in London.

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