Johannesburg - Smartphones and devices running Android software have been collecting data from their users and feeding it to parent company, Google, even when location data is turned off.
According to a Quartz news website investigation, Android phones gather users’ location data and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet.
Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting locations of cellular towers that were near by when the user connects to the internet. The information is then sent back to Google allowing the company to track user’s movements.
According to a spokesperson for Google the information collected over the 11 months had never been used or stored.
“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.
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 source said.
The move by Google also does not appear to be limited to any particular type of Android phone or tablet; Google was apparently collecting cell tower data from all modern Android devices before being contacted by Quartz.
I has also been reported that the even if an Android device did not have a sim card in it, when switched on and in the vicinity of a network tower, the device would collect the information and if connected to the internet with a sim card or via WiFi, data would then be sent to Google.
An update that removes this cell tower data-collecting feature will roll out by the end of this month, according to Google.
Google’s terms of service state: “When you use Google services, we may collect and process information about your actual location” using “various technologies... including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, WiFi access points and cell tower.”
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