Company insisted on collecting location information without user consent to improve quality of message servicesThe Korea Communications Commission (KCC) has launched an investigation into allegations that Google collected location information from Android smartphone users without their consent.
A Quartz report earlier this week revealed that Android phones collect nearby cell tower addresses and send that information to Google even when the user has location tracking turned off.
With user location data, cell towers could be used to triangulate location to around a quarter-mile radius, and even closer in urban areas where cell towers are closer together.
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"While Google states in this instance it will stop the practice, this raises the question of what else it is doing beyond the knowledge of the user, and why".
The tech giant said it has updated its system so that Android phones no longer transfer the cell tower location data to Google.
This means that even people who actively turn off their Global Positioning System tracking service - thinking their locations will no longer be shared - were being tracked by Google nonetheless.
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One privacy advocate described the finding as a "betrayal" of users. "Going ahead, we plan to carefully examine whether location information for Android smartphone users was collected and used without their consent, as well as to cooperation with worldwide efforts as we determine the investigative responses to this issue in the United States, the European Union, Japan, and elsewhere", the commission said.
In this collection of information is Google, with all the modern devices running on Android OS. "You can kind of envision any number of circumstances where that could be extremely sensitive information that puts a person at risk".
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". The more pings, the greater the battery drain, so the data collected about the country and mobile networks is used to work out the the minimum number of pings required to stay connected without draining the battery - so called heartbeat analysis.
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Android phones dominate the global market.