Google Confirms It Can Track Down Android Users’ Location Even When SIM Is Removed or GPS Turned Off

Google has confirmed the news that it has been collecting and tracking users’ location data on Android smartphones even when the location services or GPS is turned off or SIM is removed. The company says that it can track down the location of Android users with the help of the addresses of local mobile phone masts.

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A report by Quartz revealed that Google’s Android System which is in charge of handling message services ensuring delivery of push notifications began to request the unique addresses of mobile phone masts at 2017.

The result: All the location information were captured by the phone and been sent to Google by any modern smartphone with android software. Hence, Google is able to track the location of any Android device.

“In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery.” said a Google spokesperson. He added, “However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID.”

Google requested Cell ID and mobile network code which helps to identify the country and mobile phone operator that’s being used in the smartphone. This data is used to ensure the phone’s proper connection to Google’s Firebase Cloud Messaging system which controls the smartphone’s message delivery and notifications.

Google’s benefit of accessing the address of the mobile phone mast is to ensure message service reliability. Through a process of triangulation it is used to assist when the user is actively using the location services. The minimum radius to track down the position of the user is 400mm radius. It is more accurate in urban areas. The data however was never stored. The Cell ID requests will supposedly stop by the end of this November.

Location tracking is used to provide many services that are expected from a modern smartphone. Apart from mapping services, the location data is used to deliver the weather, giving local news updates, augmented reality features, shopping services and the ability to pair two wireless devices side by side.


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