GOOGLE SAYS that it will change the way in which it tries to improve the reliability of mobile services on Android phones after it was reported that users' location data was being collected even if people opted-out of location services.
Earlier in the week, Quartz published a story illustrating how Google was still collecting the location data of users that weren't using its location services, leading to widespread concern among Android handset owners about potential privacy infringements. Now, Google has confirmed that the feature - in its current form at least - will be disabled by the end of the month.
In a nutshell, the problem is that for nearly a whole year - since January 2017 - Android devices have been collecting addresses of nearby cell towers and reporting them back to Google, regardless of any individual user settings.
In turn, through collection of cell tower locations, any individual user's location - even if the SIM card was removed - would be a trivial matter to map, which is what's at the heart of the concerns.
Google, in response to the report and subsequent concerns, confirmed that it had indeed been transmitting cell tower location information, but that it hadn't ever been used, and that the practice would stop in the near future.
"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 spokesperson said in a statement. "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."
The tracking wasn't targetted at any particular Android device, and of course, you need to enable location services for many apps and features on modern handsets, but not giving users the option to switch the feature off is most definitely not a good move.
Of course, it's not exactly the first time Google's products have been quietly recording your every move though. µ
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