What do you do when you don’t want Google to track your activities and location continuously? Few steps you take in such situations are turning off mobile data and location services. Some people go further down the line and disable apps or remove the carrier SIM cards.
What if I tell you that Google can still track you even after you’ve performed all the tasks mentioned above? According to an investigation by Quartz, the search engine giant has been gathering data about your location endlessly and sending it back to their servers when your device re-connects to the internet. Google has also confirmed the same.
Location tracking using cellular towers
As per Google, cell tower address information was being sent to Google servers since the beginning of 2017 to manage push notifications and messages on Android devices–even with location services disabled. The company started looking into Cell ID codes to improve the push and messaging services. The end-users don’t have any control over this tracking.
“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 told Quartz. Surprisingly, the devices were caught sending the tower addresses even when they had no SIM cards installed.
By the end of November, Google plans to disable this location tracking feature that uses cell towers. It’s also not clear how the company planned to improve the above-mentioned service with cellular location data.
Overall, this revelation is troubling for people who wish to avoid being tracked, including law enforcement officials, whistleblowers, or abuse victims. In case their smartphones are compromised by some malware, which isn’t surprising in the world of Android.