Google has Been Tracking Android Device Location Even With Location Services Disabled

Users can restrict Google from collecting location data as well as their location history

Users can restrict Google from collecting location data as well as their location history

Quartz experts found that Android smartphones track users' location even when location service is turned off, there is no SIM card in the smartphone, and there are no apps installed.

The practice that Google has been employing has potential dangers in that a particularly skilled individual could use multiple cell towers to triangulate someone's location to within or quarter-of-a-mile or closer.

"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", the Google spokesperson said in an email. Google said it discarded all of the cell tower data and didn't proceed with the plan like they originally wanted to.

Quartz just released a report from an investigation into Android devices sending location information to Google.

A spokesperson from the firm also said that Location Services are "distinctly separate" from the system that controls push notifications and messages. It added that it would end the practice by the end of November. Not only does location tracking use up precious battery life, it's kind of creepy knowing that your smartphone is tracking your every move. While the data collected is encrypted, it is possible for that information to be shared with third-parties or intercepted by a malicious actor.

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This marks the second time in recent months the search giant has been caught collecting user data under questionable circumstances.

Location sharing is one of these services that some users keep turned off for one of two reasons - either battery saving or privacy protection. The company has an app as well as a website for accessing the Google Calendar. After Quartz contacted the company to discuss the data collection, Google confirmed the findings. Loose restrictions allow law enforcement in many states to obtain cell tower location information without a warrant until an upcoming Supreme Court case will ultimately decide if this will remain legal. 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.

As for what's being collected, the data is not as accurate as it could be.

Mashable reached out to Google for clarification on this seemingly alarming tracking and it turns out it's not actually collecting any location-based data at all. This could be common practice in urban areas where cell towers are denser.

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