Science

Google Promises to Stop Tracking Your Android Smartphone

Google Promises to Stop Tracking Your Android Smartphone

Data from a single mobile mast can only provide an approximate idea of a phone's location, but data from several towers can be used to triangulate a device's location to within a few streets in urban areas. However, the problem is that Google tracks the locations of users who turned off location services and even those who didn't have a SIM card in their devices.

A Quartz investigation found the firm had been using nearby cell towers to approximate users' locations without their knowledge from the beginning of 2017. For example, when you're using Google Maps, it uses your location to give you the best routes, or when Uber wants to use your location to let your driver know where to pick you up.

The Cell ID was never incorporated into Google's network sync system and all the data was "immediately discarded", the company said.

Google and other tech giants including Facebook have come under fire from regulators and lawmakers in numerous countries, particularly in Europe, regarding their data collection practices and the massive amount of sensitive data it gathers regarding a person's life, habits and preferences. As per the report from Quartz, the data collected by Google is encrypted but it can easily be manipulated if exposed to any third party malware, which puts Android users at great risk.

All models of Android phones and tablets sent the data to Google's push notifications and messaging management system when connected to the internet. That was not the case with the Cell ID collection, whether or not the data was stored by Google.




For those concerned about their privacy, location services is just one more setting to disable on their phone.

Google told Quartz it would end the practice by the end of the month. It doesn't matter if location services are turned off, your phone still maintains a connection to nearby towers (even without a SIM card installed). Google has been using this information without the knowledge of smartphone users for its ad targeting purposes.

Beyond mapping services, location data is used for delivering the weather, localised news results, shopping services, augmented reality features and even things as mundane as the ability to pair two different wireless devices simply by colocation.

Similar attacks succeeded in the past due to the weak security of various apps and services, leaving users exposed to everything from identity theft to actual property theft.

However, it does not specify if this is applicable when a user actively switches off location services.