Your Android phone is tracking your location, regardless of if you opt out of these features, according to a report by Quartz. For a company that says it’s not evil, Google sure doesn’t seem all that concerned about privacy.
Quartz claims Android devices constantly gather data about a device’s location and send that information back to Google, so long as the device is connected to the internet. These devices apparently gather info regardless if there’s a SIM card and if a user hasn’t signed into any apps—and it does this even with location services turned off.
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.
For its part, Google confirmed that Android devices do indeed collect location data regardless of whether or not a user opts out of location tracking features. Google said the practice was the result of a feature that would have improved the speed and performance of message delivery.
With a device connected to the internet, it then transmits the address of a nearby cellphone tower, which provides an approximate location. If multiple towers are involved, however, a location can be triangulated within about a quarter-mile radius.
For most people, location tracking isn’t a huge deal—we might use it for apps like Uber or when navigating with Google Maps. But Quartz brings up several situations when someone might want to opt out of location tracking, such as victims of domestic abuse.
Since Quartz’s investigation, Google said it plans to stop tracking location data even when users opt out.