Even after the device was reset to a factory default setting and location services were disabled, Quartz still noted that the location was being transmitted to Google. Quartz's report details a practice in which Google was able to track user locations by triangulating which cell towers were now servicing a specific device.
A news report released by United States online media outlet Quartz on Wednesday found that Google has been collecting the location data of its Android users since the beginning of the year, even when Global Positioning System is disabled.
Google recently confirmed it had collected data from Android users through cell towers even when the latter had disabled their devices' location services.
"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", Google spokesperson said in an email.
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Therefore Google has access to data about individuals' locations and movements, even when their phones are turned off or disconnected from the Internet, which violates the privacy of smartphone users.
Google Inc. has said - while confirming the practice-that it was ending the practice by the end of the month.
Further he added, "To ensure the notifications and messages are received quickly, the modern Android devices use a network sync system that requires the use of Mobile Country Codes (MCC) and Mobile Network Codes (MNC)".
Even though the information is encrypted when it is sent back to Google, a third party could still compromise the system.
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Google has built its business on advertising, of which location sharing is an important part.
The issue affected Android phones with Google Play Services running in the background.
According to the Google spokesperson, the company's system that controls its push notifications and messages is "distinctly separate from Location Services, which provide a device's location to apps".
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Security experts expressed concern as to why the collection of such data was not by consent and the option to opt out was not given to users.