nsucurrent.com February 18, 2018

Google Is Watching You (Even More Than You Thought)

23 November 2017, 12:28 | Shelley Chandler

Android devices seen covertly sending location data to Google

Android phones still track you when location services are off

Google admits it grabs data on individuals' locations from Android phones with just an internet connection. At the beginning of 2017, Android smartphones started sending their locations to the cellular towers in the area, and then they sent them back to Google.

In a rather technical statement emailed to USA TODAY, Google offered an explanation: "To ensure messages and notifications are received quickly, modern Android phones use a network sync system that requires the use of Mobile Country Codes (MCC) and Mobile Network Codes (MNC)".

Such data, while not as granular as Global Positioning System data, could still help entities-including Google-triangulate a user's location with considerable accuracy and far beyond any consumer's reasonable expectations of privacy, Quartz said.

A Google spokesperson assured us that the update roll out will be complete by the end of November.

Location tracking via smartphones is a common practice used by all the major players, either locally on the device or remotely on a server and is used to provide numerous services expected of a modern phone. "It seems quite intrusive for Google to be collecting such information that is only relevant to carrier networks when there are no SIM card or enabled services".

If you have a new Android phone that you bought this year, it's very likely Google has been tracking your location even if your location settings were turned to the "off" position.

Google tracks the whereabouts of your Android smartphone, regardless of whether or not users have disabled location services.

However, Google has told Quartz that they were never used or stored the data and that the company is now taking steps to end the practice after being contacted by Quartz. However, the company said the data is "distinctly separate" from Location Services, which sends a device's location to the applications.

The collection of cell tower location has been going on as far back as early this year, with Google using the improved Firebase Cloud Messaging service - an improved version of their Google Cloud Messaging service used to send notifications, to collect and send the data back.

So, a bad actor could potentially use the data that a person didn't even know was being transmitted to discover a person's general location. The fact that Android users weren't able to opt out is perhaps the most glaring.

Similar attacks succeeded in the past due to the weak security of various apps and services, leaving users exposed to everything from identity theft to actual property theft.

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