Google’s Android phones are collecting location data, even in cases where the user has explicitly turned off the setting. A report in Quartz has shown how Android phones are gathering all data around location and sending it back to Google. The search giant has admitted to this practice, though it clarified that from end of the November 2017, this particular location data collection will stop.
Google has told Quartz that it did not actually use this location data or store it on the company’s servers. Currently though Android users do not have the option of disabling this particular aspect of location data collection that is employed by Google.
The report also raises questions on why the ‘cell id’ was needed by Google in the first place and points out this could have been used to track people within a radius. This data collection is also worrying because in case of a compromised or hacked smartphone, the location could be accessed by third-parties.
What is more worrying is that even those phones which were reset to “factory default settings” and with location services disabled for apps, were sending the nearby “cell-tower addresses to Google.” Google says the practice will stop from November end, it does raise questions around user privacy on Android. Google has often faced criticism over its practice of collecting large amount of user data, and the problems with cell-tower location highlights this further.