Google promises to end 'concerning' smartphone tracking

Google promises to end 'concerning' smartphone tracking

Google has been gathering location data from users with Android smartphones and tablets-even when those users have turned off the location services setting and removed the SIM card, according to a report from Quartz.

It was found that this was due to the Google collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers and this data being sent back to the tech giant.

That means Google has access to data about the locations and movements of any Android user.

Google said that the location tracking was used to "further improve the speed and performance of message delivery".

The company claims that the data was never incorporated into its systems and was immediately discarded.

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A Google spokesperson stressed that the tower info, known as Cell ID codes, wasn't being used and was tossed out as soon as it was received. While the data collected is encrypted, it is possible for that information to be shared with third-parties or intercepted by a malicious actor.

Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice. The company has an app as well as a website for accessing the Google Calendar.

Quartz experts couldn't tell how cell tower addresses could have improved an IM service. Check out Google's Privacy Checkup page to edit what data you're sharing with the public, your friends, or even advertisers. And while it might seem comforting that Google doesn't know your exact location, Quartz notes that every time you pass a cell phone tower and are using cellular data or WiFi, your Android phone sends identifying data to Google.

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. Triangulating between cell towers will reveal a device's location to a high degree of accuracy, especially in urban areas where towers are more common.

You thought you were completely disconnected from any location tracking by Google and your phone when you went into your phone's location services and toggled them off, right? Experts explained that a single cell tower can only offer an approximate location of a smartphone user, but with three towers in range and a method called triangulation, that user's location can be easily spotted.

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