Korea's media regulator to investigate Google's covert location data collection

Android devices still track you when location services are turned off

Korea's media regulator to investigate Google's covert location data collection

Google has been collecting location data on Android phones, even when the location services are disabled, according to Quartz.

Google has confirmed it can track the location of Android users via the addresses of local mobile phone masts, even when location services were turned off and the sim cards removed to protect privacy.

According to a Google spokesperson, the data was not used or stored, and that the company was taking steps to stop the practice by the end of November. The addresses were in the information that included Cell ID codes that was sent for close to one year to Google.

If Google collected Cell IDs without consent, the company may have violated South Korea's Location Data Protection Act, whether the data was stored on Google's USA servers or not, said Hwang Sun-chul, an official with KCC's commission's privacy infringement division.

The data was being collected as a part of the Firebase Cloud Messaging, which the app developers and Google use to send notification messages or data messages to the consumers or their own apps, Google told Quartz.

Data the company pass on cell towers, which are able to fairly accurately calculate the location of users.

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Google is facing scrutiny for reportedly collecting data about the location of smartphone users without their knowledge.

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.

The Google spokesperson added that Google did not incorporate data into its system therefore it was discarded immediately and the network system was updated to not request Cell IDs any longer.

Devices with cellular data or WiFi connection appeared to send data each time they were in range of a new cell tower.

"It has pretty concerning implications", said Bill Budington, a software engineer who works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for digital privacy. We use various technologies to determine location, including IP address, GPS, and other sensors that may, for example, provide Google with information on nearby devices, Wi-Fi access points and cell towers.

Phone networks routinely collect data about where mobile users are, via information recorded from phone masts across the country.

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