In an investigation led by Quartz, the publication reported that even if a user disables location and doesn't even insert a SIM card, Android phones still collects location information and sends it to Google.
A spokesperson from the firm also said that Location Services are "distinctly separate" from the system that controls push notifications and messages.
Google says using Cell ID codes could help further improve the speed and performance of message delivery on Android phones.The company claims it did not put this information into the sync system though, which means it was allegedly discarded immediately.
The information was never stored, and the practice will end by the end of November, she wrote.
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Curiously, Google does indeed mention it gleans location data, but does not state whether this is the case when location services have been disabled.
A Google spokesperson told the news outlet that this information was never used for any objective, and that Google will cease the practice by the end of this month. Even devices that have gone through a factory reset were found to be transmitting private data back to the company. Luckily, Google said that it doesn't use the location services collected through this method for that. And if your Android phone has been hacked in any way, others may be able to tap into that location data stream without your knowledge - and without Google's knowledge. That's especially true looking at it from a security perspective, as this cell tower data could be compromised if an Android device were to be stolen. So, it doesn't need location services to know your location.
However, a source reportedly told Quartz that Google added in the collection of cell tower addresses as an improvement for its Firebase Cloud Messaging.
Although Google is preparing to end the program, the findings may create a distrust between Google's Android and some users.
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The information from the cell towers could pinpoint a user's location with a quarter-mile radius-an area that could be narrowed down further with multiple tower pings that could better determine a person's location and movements.
Google told Quartz when confronted with the information that it had been getting the cell tower information from Android devices for the past 11 months.
Exactly how cell tower addresses improve message delivery on Android phones is still unclear. Each phone has a unique ID number, with which the location data can be associated. Even if there is no SIM card on a phone, it still uses WiFi to send the tower address.
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