Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google Has Been Collecting Android Users’ Locations Even When Location Services Are Disabled

Keith Collins, Quartz:

Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.

Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice.

The cell tower addresses have been included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months, according to a Google spokesperson. They were never used or stored, the spokesperson said, and the company is now taking steps to end the practice after being contacted by Quartz. By the end of November, the company said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers cannot disable.

As Michael Rockwell pointed out, Google only stopped when contacted by Quartz; how long would this practice have continued if Quartz had not discovered this? And why were they doing this in the first place if they weren’t storing or using the location information? And why will it take until the end of the month to stop collecting this information?