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Android phones still track you when location services are off

Each time Android devices including devices with no SIM cards with a wi-fi connection or a cellular data comes within range of a new cell tower they send the data to Google.

Google this week downplayed a report that it has quietly been collecting location data from Android devices even when users have disabled location services or haven't even inserted a SIM card into their phones.

There are any number of reasons a person would not want to share their location data, and Google's practice of collecting cell tower data without explicit permission could potentially put users at risk of harm.

Quartz found that the smartphones were scooping up phone mast addresses - a string of data used to identify individual masts - and sending them back to Google.

According to Google, the data wasn't stored and was deleted as soon as it was received, but the admission still raises questions of privacy and security.

The Cell ID was never incorporated into Google's network sync system and all the data was "immediately discarded", the company said.

The collection of cell tower location has been going on as far back as early this year, with Google using the improved Firebase Cloud Messaging service - an improved version of their Google Cloud Messaging service used to send notifications, to collect and send the data back.

Phones using Google's operating system, Android, have been covertly tracking their users' locations, even when a user has turned off their location services. After Quartz contacted Google, it said the phones would no longer send this data to the company from the end of the month.

"By the end of November, the company said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers can not disable", Quartz quoting Google Spokesperson has said. Google, however, doesn't (or at least didn't) seem to care about your choice as it was tracking you regardless. It's unclear exactly how tracking the addresses of cell towers could improve the delivery of messages.

For those concerned about their privacy, location services is just one more setting to disable on their phone.

The tech giant has reportedly confirmed the practice of gathering location data. So basically, even if you had the "location services" turned off, you were still being tracked. This results in Google being able to locate you if it wanted to ─ and this situation is far from what you would expect as privacy.

Google has told Quartz that it did not actually use this location data or store it on the company's servers.

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