Google has been collecting location data from Android phones, even when the user has turned off location sharing, an investigation has revealed.
Google has admitted that it has been collecting the data from Android phones for the last 11 months, Quartz reported.
Location data is even collected from users who haven’t put a SIM card in their device.
“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,” Quartz reports.
“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.”
Google says that information from cell towers was used by the system Google uses to push notifications and messages to Android devices in order to “further improve the speed and performance of message delivery”.
Quartz says that the use of the data from cell towers can be used to triangulate the location of a user, adding: “It is not clear how cell-tower addresses, transmitted as a data string that identifies a specific cell tower, could have been used to improve message delivery.”
Quartz says that the data was collected from all Android devices when they connected to a mobile or Wi-Fi network.
The data could theoretically be used to target users with advertising, say who visit a particular store.
In response, Google hasn’t disputed the Quartz report, but has downplayed it and said that the data was not being used to target Android users with advertising.
The tech giant also said its practice to collect data from cell towers will stop at the end of November.