In a nutshell, the whereabouts of every active Android phone and tablet in the world were tracked even with location services disabled and no carrier SIM card inserted.
However, Quartz says the California-based company does allow advertisers to target consumers using location data, which has obvious commercial value.
Users have always had the choice of stopping tech companies from collecting data on them in exchange to giving up the benefits of certain services. Global Positioning System tracking can pinpoint which restaurant you're in and that data can be used to figure out things like wait times the popularity of a destination. Additionally, Google also suggests that it has not added Cell ID collection to its systems, claiming that any data related to Cell IDs was immediately discarded.
The investigation has found that Google is collecting location data since beginning of 2017 after a change in early 2017 to the Firebase Cloud Messaging service. One cell tower could only provide an approximate location of a device, such as in rural areas or between cities.
According to a recent report by Quartz, even when you have location services turned off, Google's Android devices still track your location.
If you're still the proud owner of an Android Wear watch, we've got some good news to brighten up your Wednesday morning. Still, better late than never; hit the button below to find the latest Android Wear version over at the Google Play Store. The spokesperson also said the data wasn't being stored indefinitely and that the company will terminate the practice.
For instance, a service provider might collect an Android device's country and network code to manage connectivity and to ensure that messages and notifications are properly relayed to it. The publication further reveals that Android devices send the details when the device is connected to the Internet. The most intriguing aspect of the whole situation is the fact that when contacted by Quartz, a Google spokesperson confirmed the practice. Most concerning is that the info was sent from smartphones that have location services turned off.
In October, several Google Home Mini devices reportedly malfunctioned and recorded audio in the background in the owners' homes, instead of only waking up when a specific trigger word was used. While the data collected is encrypted, it is possible for that information to be shared with third-parties or intercepted by a malicious actor.