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Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Android Collects Android Users' Locations Using Cell-tower Data


No matter if you turn off location services and you haven't used any apps n your Android smartphone, it will send Google your locations data based on cell-towers.

A Quartz investigation has revealed that phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they're connected to the internet. Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers - even when location services are disabled, according to the publication.

Google confirmed the practice.The cell tower addresses have been included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months, according to a Google spokesperson. The were never used or stored, the spokesperson said, and the company is now taking steps to end the practice after being contacted by Quartz. By the end of November, the company said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers cannot disable.

"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," the Google spokesperson told Quartz. "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."

Typically, information about a single cell tower can only offer an approximation of where a mobile device actually is, but multiple towers can be used to triangulate its location to within about a quarter-mile radius, or to a more exact pinpoint in urban areas, where cell towers are closer together.

Google and other internet companies are under fire from lawmakers and regulators, including for the extent to which they vacuum up data about users. Such personal data are foundational to the business successes of companies like Facebook and Alphabet, built on targeted advertising and personalization and together valued at over $1.2 trillion by investors.


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