Android: Google collects your location continuously and sneakily

The computer giant registers the GSM cell addresses of users, even if geolocation services are disabled. This collection is expected to cease by the end of this month.

It’s not just OnePlus or Wiko that are collecting strange user data. The giant Google itself has just been caught in the bag. Quartz reporters have just revealed that Mountain View’s servers are constantly recording the GSM cell numbers of all Android smartphones. This identifier, which is specific to each operator, is automatically distributed to terminals as soon as they enter the radius of a base station. The problem is that it makes it possible to locate the user in a more or less fine way, especially if triangulation techniques are used.

Google has confirmed to Quartz the collection of this data by stating that it has never been stored. GSM cell addresses have been effectively transmitted since January 2017 to apparently “improve the speed and performance of message routing.” But in reality, this data would never have been used. Google promised he’d stop collecting it by the end of the month.

General terms of services of use are not clear.

According to a Quartz source, this collection started with the update of Firebase Cloud Messaging, a mail and notification service that has been owned by Google since 2014 and is integrated by default in all Android smartphones. It is not clear how the GSM cell number can help Google to route these messages and notifications. Quartz has found that this collection is carried out on all terminals at all times, even if the user deactivates geolocation, and even in the absence of a SIM card.

In Google’s terms of use, this collection is not specifically stated. Google only explains how to use “different technologies to locate you, including IP address, GPS signals and other sensors that allow us to identify devices, WiFi access points, and nearby relay antennas.” It would be nice if Google would abandon this vague wording and finally give more details about what it collects.