Technology is a double-edged sword, and as with all things good, it has a dark side to it as well. In today’s connected world its quintessential for smartphones to have access to your location, be it for navigation, social media check-in or to use apps like Uber and Lyft. However, we are often comforted by the option to turn off the GPS hardware and other features which give away location details.
As per a recent report by Quartz, the “switch” to turn off the location services seems to fail miserably, at least in Android smartphones. The report mentions that Android software gathers data about your location and sends it back to Google once its connected to the internet. This has apparently been underway since early 2017. The gravity of the situation is further magnified since Google will have access to individuals data including their locations and movements. Needless to say, this is an obvious dent in the privacy of the users and is not something they signed up for.
Quartz has already contacted Google, and the internet giant has agreed to the practice. The cell tower addresses were included in the string of information sent to Google; the same information was used to beam relevant notifications and messages. Google has now assured that they will put an end to this practice by the end of November this year.
Also Read: Google Caches Screenshots of Every Search Result on Android; Here’s How to Access or Disable it
Google Spokesperson said the following in a statement to Quartz, “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,” he further added that “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 Android devices were transmitting a data string that would eventually correspond to the specific cell tower. While a cell tower information doesn’t give away the exact position of the user, it can still be improvised using signal triangulation methods. In fact, in urban areas, the location can be pinpointed with greater accuracy since the towers are usually situated in close proximity of one another. Google might argue that the data sent is encrypted, however, if the said Android phone is infected with spyware the data can end up in wrong hands.